Internet users are increasing day by day and most of them are not aware that they information is used without their concern. Privacy is given prime importance by every individual. So many apps, websites and services you use online today have abundance of information about their users. And this information can act as a goldmine for a cybercriminal.

Privacy concerns exist wherever uniquely identifiable data relating to a person or persons are collected and stored, in digital form or otherwise. In some cases these concerns refer to how data are collected, stored and associated. In other cases the issue is who is given access to information.

What are the concerns?

The privacy threats of which people are concerned include,

  • Visits to web sites will be tracked secretly.
  • E-mail addresses and other personal information will be captured and used for marketing or other purposes without permission.
  • Personal information will be sold to third parties without permission.
  • Credit card theft

Why is it important to have privacy on internet?

Privacy is directly related to our personal data. This data affects our reputations and it can also be used to influence our decisions and modify our behavior. It can be used as a tool to take control over us. And if it reaches the wrong hands, personal data can be used to cause great harm to us.

Let us go though two examples to see how out privacy is at risk!

How sharing a ride can take your privacy for a ride

Most of us use ridesharing services available in most of the prominent taxi booking apps. Share rides are mostly available at any time with lesser pricing options there by making it the most preferred way of booking a cab. This feature turned out to be a great blend of technology and use of transportation to optimize resources. However, because these services require riders’ information, such as real-time location data and a form of payment, they could pose risks to riders’ information and privacy if that information is used wrongly.

What types of data do these companies collect?

Ridesharing services rely on GPS-enabled smartphones, since their apps need to know the location of both drivers and ride requestors. However, if riders don’t turn off location access after completing their rides the app could potentially track and collect data around the clock on where the user is, where they go and sometimes, even how long they stay there.

In addition to location data, a lot of these services require the user to link to a social networking account, usually Facebook, as a way of verifying the identity. By doing so, the user then grants that company access to the personal information that is in their Facebook account.

These services are also cashless, so in order to use them, the user must store a valid credit card in their account.

What can be done with your data?

Before you install online taxi booking apps

  1. Research each online taxi booking company for reviews or news stories about them to get a better sense of the company charter, culture, attitudes and any issues that customers may be discussing.
  2. Once you have your choice, examine the privacy policy of the app. This gives a clear idea about the company’s intent to use your data. If there is anything you do not feel comfortable with, do some more research or look for other service providers.

Protecting your privacy while using online dating Apps

When you post anything online this can be viewed by everyone who uses internet you should be careful with, what identifiable information you disclose in your dating profile. While there are a surplus amount of users but you still won’t know what kinds of individuals you are dealing with. You can be at risk of becoming a victim of stalking, harassment, Catfishing, identity theft, webcam blackmail and even phishing scams. In order to help mitigate these risks, be very careful with what information you provide on your profile.

How to spot dating scams

  • An individual may contact you with a fake story, about being stranded in a foreign country or a sudden family emergency. If they ask you for money, you should report them to the service you are using and then block them.
  • To help verify the identity of the person that you are talking to, ask for a recent photo. If they protest or makes excuses as to why they cannot provide a photo, it is better to be cautious
  • If you have been chatting with a person for a while and they continually postpone meeting in person, it is better to consider this as a red flag.
  • Do not visit links sent to you by unknown people. Scammers will pose as a member and try to get their target to click on links, usually leading to porn or webcam sites and sometimes can even lead to malicious sites that download malware onto your computer.
  • If someone requests a webcam chat, be especially careful about your behavior. The criminal can record the webcam session and they can use it to blackmail you. While being in conversation you are feeling uncomfortable then disconnect the chat.
  • Scammers create fake profiles that are run by programs called bots. Their objective is to get you to click on a link that will lead to either porn, malware or scam you for credit card information. It is actually quite easy to spot a bot, as they have a set of predetermined “canned” responses. If you notice that the conversation you are having seems a bit off or the person is not answering your questions directly, chances are it is a bot.

Mobile devices are as powerful as desktop computers. Smart phones have overtaken most of the tasks done by using desktop computers. But the main issue rose when smart-phones became more susceptible to malware and hacking. It caused lot of panic to the users as most of the sensitive information was available in smart phones like text messages, videos, photos, contacts and online banking details. Hacking and malware can directly exploit all these information. With more people using their devices for online shopping, managing finances, paying bills and playing online games, the threat is all around us. Some of the mobile threat vectors are malware, risky apps, device vulnerabilities, jailbroken and rooted devices and rogue Wi-Fi access points.

Growing adoption of cloud services has brought its own share of privacy concerns: More and more sensitive data is now managed by third parties, so users are losing visibility and users are no longer in direct control over their data.

Steps to Protect Your Privacy

  • Learn about an app before downloading it: Look for the app’s privacy policy to understand which data it will collect and share.
  • Think twice before signing up for a free app: An app that is free to you cost its developer something to create it. So there is a good chance the company might make money by collecting your data and then selling it.
  • Use your smartphone settings to protect your privacy: By programming the phone wisely, you limit an app’s access to your information and turn off the app’s ability to track your location.
  • Close or log off apps when you are not using them: That is especially smart for shopping and bank apps since shutting them down makes it harder for companies to access what is in them.
  • When your app developer sends you an update, click on it: Updates may contain security patches that protect your information and device from the latest malware.
  • When upgrading to a new phone, clear all the data on your old phone: It does not matter whether you are trading in, recycling or tossing the device.

Case studies

  • Social media Apps

One of the popular social media site has been plagued by privacy issues over the years. Its highest-profile problem was in October 2010, when it was reported that its top 10 most popular applications including FarmVille and Texas Hold`em shared user data, including names and friends' names, with advertisers. A  Journal investigation exposed the social media privacy breach and said it affected tens of millions of users, including some that had used social media’s most stringent privacy settings. They had previously been in trouble for transmitting user ID numbers to advertising companies when users clicked on ads.

  • Behavioral model being created

A new area of concern for privacy advocates is behavioral targeting by online advertising services. These services create behavioral profiles based on anonymous data of how computer users surf the web and then serve up targeted ads based on these profiles. These services must provide consumers with notice about collection of behavioral data and provide them with the ability to choose.

  • Mobile phone Tracking

One of the top manufacturers in smart phones received criticism about how its products were collecting and storing user location data. The manufacturer accepted the mistakes in dealing with the location data after security researchers discovered an unencrypted file inside the devices. It contained a cache of locations visited over the last 12 months. The smart-phone manufacturer immediately provided a free software update to users to fix the glitch. Later other manufacturers also admitted that they store the same kind of user location data on their mobile operating systems. 

Internet is considered as a milestone in the development of technology but it also caused the decrease of our privacy. Today most of us face regular concerns and there are many ways our private information can be used by anyone using internet. For women, the threat escalates. Not only that their public profiles are threatened, but their emotional and mental wellbeing, their work and their networks are too affected. In recent years, many cases were referred where prominent female figures have been targeted through ugly online smear campaigns, information theft, gender-based harassment, hacking, and exposure. 

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