There is so much information on the internet about most of us that it can complicate our private lives but also our professional career. The web knows your age, your address, your habits but it can also acquire information like your salary, which could complicate your negotiation for your next job. However there are ways today to eliminate that information if not entirely, at least in great part, but first you have to know what it is and how to navigate anonymously.
VPN: For a Minimum of Anonymity
Although a VPN won’t make your private information disappear from the internet, it can at least protect you from releasing more, by creating a fake location to enable you to have some kind of anonymity while you are browsing. Companies and individuals with the knowhow can track what you do, what you buy and which websites you visit through your IP address. It is a unique code which singularly identifies us when we go on the internet. If someone follows it, he will be able to track every single thing you do online from your social media to how many movies you watch and anything else you might not want that person to know, simply because it is none of his business. To learn about VPN options, visit Vpnoverview.
By using a VPN service no one will know where you’ve been; not the government, not hackers and not even the websites you go onto. Therefore it will also provide you with extra protection from ad-trackers and phishing attacks. In case you lost your connection to the VPN suddenly, your internet connection will automatically be stopped so your personal data won’t suddenly become available to anyone looking for them.
Information as Currency
Information has become the internet’s favourite currency. Those who accumulate it, such as Facebook and Google, use them for advertisement purposes and can even resell them sometimes. Lots of this information has not been shared by you willingly. They include searches, photos, purchases, locations, and various messages that build a digital identity.
It can be quite difficult to avoid leaving traces of your life on the web. If you were to read all of the privacy policies each time you sign-up for a new app, an online service or even just to read the news on your favourite online newspaper edition, you’d probably refuse them and then… well, you wouldn’t be able to do much in a completely digitalized world.
Two Types of Digital Identities
When we use social media, we participate in creating one of our two identities online. That’s the one we build regularly by posting pictures, videos and messages online through the use of social networks like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to name only some of the best known. That identity is under our control, so if you do not wish for people to be aware of some of your information, the simplest way to solve the problem is to remove yourself from these networks.
The other digital identity is the one you create by leaving traces of your presence online. That one is more difficult to control since it is collected by companies that we deal with. That is the knowledge that data brokers sell. And since various regions of the world have different data-privacy legislation regarding online content, it makes it even more complex. The problem is, even the simplest information about you can go a long way into finding more details.
A research by New York Times columnist Brian X. Chen has lead him to discover that by simply using a phone number, you can uncover where a person lives, who he is related to and it can even go as far as letting you know if they have a criminal record. He also found breaches that can let you slip through the security questions protecting the various individual’s account online. Scary, right?
How Can You Know What Information Is Available Online about You?
The first thing you need to do when you decide to recuperate some of your privacy, is to do a search of your name on Google. Make sure when you do so that your browser is in private mode, which will be the beginning of your new life. Look for social media profiles and data brokers. These should be found within the first 10 pages or so of results (unless you are well known which would make disappearing difficult if not counteractive to your life).
You will then know what a stranger would find out about you if they looked you up. If you find nothing problematic, then maybe you don’t have to start erasing your previous life online. But if data brokers have gotten hold of your information such as your birth date, where you work, your salary, etc., it might be best to do something about it. Keep in mind that this information can be used to hack into your various online accounts by providing hints on your security questions’ answers.