Big data is all around us, even if you don’t realize it. Many businesses look at big data as the key ingredient to future success because with more information, they can improve performances and prepare well for new trends and practices. The process of collecting that information, however, has come under fire in recent years. Not only do businesses see value in gathering data on you, but governments do as well. Surveillance has now become a common practice with much of it done through our online activities. With big data analytics, other parties can paint an almost disturbingly accurate picture of who you are. This has lead many to voice their concerns over privacy violations, even to the point where people are looking for ways to avoid big data surveillance altogether. If you’re in the camp that wants your information to remain as private as possible, here are some helpful hacks you can implement to improve your personal privacy.
1. Delete Browser Cookies
Internet browsers can track all of the websites you visit. This information helps to establish an online profile about you, noting your particular tastes and preferences. From this data, businesses can offer deals and advertisements specifically tailored to you. While this may sound like a benefit, the fact remains that third parties are still collecting information on your activities, even if you don’t approve. That’s why deleting your cookies is an easy way to at the least make surveillance more difficult. And make sure you do it several times a day.
2. Be Careful With Mobile Apps
Our smartphones are used more and more for internet access, and one way we utilize mobile devices is through the apps we download. Unfortunately, many of those apps collect a lot of data, from your contact lists to your pictures to email information. The one point in your favor is the fact that you must authorize this access if you wish to download the app. By paying close attention to what an app asks for, you can avoid those apps that you may feel ask for too much.
3. Use Privacy Enhancing Technologies
While Privacy Enhancing Technologies (or PETs) may sound advanced, they can actually be quite simple. Let’s face it — you can never fully block surveillance, but you can avoid giving the monitors easy access. That’s where PETs come in. PETs can be as simple as a browser plug-in. Some of them work by blocking websites that track your activities. They’ll usually alert you why they’re blocking the site so you can alter your web behavior in the future.
4. Limit Social Media Use
It seems like many people want to live their lives through social media. While it’s a good way to keep in contact with friends and family while sharing what’s happening in your life, understand that everything you post on social media can be collected and monitored. That means every picture you tag, every Facebook update you write, every Tweet you post, and every event on your calendar can be seen by pretty much anyone. To maintain your privacy, you should limit your use of social media. That doesn’t mean avoiding it completely, only that you should keep personal information that you share to a minimum.
5. Use Virtual Private Networks
Like PETs, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) may sound complicated but some can be used by those who aren’t tech savvy. The most basic ones are even available for free and can be downloaded as browser plug-ins and extensions. VPNs work by acting as an intermediary server between you and the site you’re visiting. So if somebody is monitoring your activity, all they will see is the server and not your computer or device. This protects you from unauthorized monitoring and keeps your identity relatively safe.
It should be noted once again that fully blocking big data surveillance is not possible, not with the kind of resources governments and private corporations have at their disposal. That doesn’t mean there aren’t measures you can take to keep your data as private as possible. The above simple hacks can go a long way in protecting yourself from unwanted eyes and ears.
Featured photo credit: Com Salud/Flickr via flickr.com