Staying Safe on the Internet

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Internet security is a hot topic with threats increasing every day. High profile individuals andcompanies alike have faced security breaches which leads the everyday person to wonder how they can protect their personal data. As such, it is important to know how your personal information is being used and what you can do to limit this.

Gary Wolf, a contributing editor at Wired magazine, speaks to the fact that technology is constantly collecting personal data through devices we place on our bodies. In his TED talk, The Quantified Self, Wolf explains how consumers now use different technological devices to track their personal numbers, whether it be weight, calories eaten, diapers changed, etc. Wolf also discusses how these personal statistics are shared with others via the social networks connected to each device. Through these social networks, you know that you are sharing information with certain information, those who you have deemed “friends” of yours. Wolf challenges those listening to use these devices for self-knowledge. With the self-knowledge provided by these numbers, you can improve your daily habits, but there are other ways these devices can make you self-aware, and that is through your internet activity.

Companies like Facebook, encourage their users to protect their identities, and stay private while using their social media platforms. Recently, Facebook launched a “Stay Secure on Facebook” campaign, in which it showed each user ways they could improve the security of their account. Facebook offers tips to users for better privacy practices, such as logging out of websites from browsers or apps that haven’t been used in over a month, all in one place. It also tells the user how to keep their password secure, and more importantly, how to create a strong password. Furthermore, it is imperative to create multiple passwords for different accounts instead of relying on one master password. Hackers can gain access to your location, social media and banking accounts if users rely on a single password.

Spotify, the giant music streaming service, recently announced a controversial new privacy policy. Spotify’s new privacy policy specifies that it will collect information stored on mobile devices such as contacts, photos and media files as well as information about user location. Furthermore, the new policy states that Spotify will integrate with Third Party applications such as Facebook. Due to the outcry over such seemingly invasive measures, Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, went to great lengths to explain how the privacy permissions would actually be used. The important thing to note is that if you do not want to share your information with Spotify, you don’t have too. Spotify prompts the user to ask for permission to access any data and only uses it to customize the Spotify user experience. What this means is that this information can help Spotify provide you with music recommendations, to make sure artists get paid and to target ads to the appropriate audience.

If this article has piqued your interest in cyber security and you’re wondering what steps to take to keep yourself safe, you may consider becoming a regular reader of Bruce Schneier’s blog. Bruce Schneier is an internationally renowned security expert who has written countless books, articles, essays and academic papers. Schneier is of the opinion that data privacy does not really exist; most of what we do is, whether it be using our cell phones or buying food using a credit card, can be collected. Despite this, Schneier remains positive that in a few decades, personal data will become personal once again. Until then, Schneier encourages others to install anti-virus software, a firewall and anti-spyware software, to create strong passwords and to change them often, and to ignore any suspicious looking emails. More tips to keep safe can be found here.

Although data privacy issues can seem daunting, it is refreshing to see that there are companies such as Facebook and Spotify who are taking the initiative to present their privacy policies in a way that is clear and easy to understand. Frontier Communications has taken it a step further by spreading awareness of data privacy issues through a $1000 scholarship to incoming and current college students around the important subject of Internet safety. Frontier recognizes that students use the Internet in their daily lives, whether it be for personal use or educational use. With the ever-growing risks of participating in different Internet activities, Frontier encourages students to submit a creative way oftelling their peers to be more aware of their Internet activity, and ways they can “stay safe online”.