How to Protect Your Digital Wellbeing
“He who does not move does not notice his chains,” philosopher Rosa Luxembourg wrote. She pertains to political freedom here. But politics and so much more manifests in the digital realm as well. It has become important to understand that losing your online privacy is an invisible chain in and of itself.
So I’ve made this to-do list in order to safeguard your digital wellbeing and help you in ridding yourself of your invisible chains.
Segment your digital life
Make a specific email address to segment your digital identity. This has a lot of benefits. For one thing, it declutters your digital life. There’s been plenty of cringe-worthy stories about employees sending their bosses improper emails because they were too tired to check on the address. Having a different email address for work, leisure, and for subscriptions would help you better organize and prioritize which emails to open and which ones to ignore.
But, on a deeper level, it makes you more difficult for both hackers and advertisers to track you down. Spam and phishing efforts anchored on email-based subscription services would only get sent to an email address that you don’t really check.
Don’t be too personal on social networks
Sharing your personal information on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram might make your life easier in terms of finding long-lost loved ones and friends but it also makes it easier to hack your digital identity.
Combining the digital information about yourself that you share on social media with the physical realm is a fairly easy thing to do. A burglar, for example, can find the perfect time to go to break in and go to town inside your home if they see on your profile that you’re currently on a vacation in a faraway place.
What’s even scarier is the social hacking where ill-intentioned people manipulate you into doing something through the information that you reveal publicly on your profile. For example, they look for markers such as break-up or loss of a loved one and use that grief to foster commonalities to gain the trust of their mark. From there, it only takes a few more well-placed questions for social hackers to gain important information such as bank information. They don’t even need to interact with you in person. They can do this through phone calls or in chats.
Physically secure your information
Don’t let other strangers touch your smartphone or pc. Your smartphone and PCs are important data storage devices, not just of movies and pictures but also of your passwords to different services. Google Chrome, for example, keeps your passwords stored in order for you to automatically log-in to Facebook and other social media services. If you engage in online banking, your browser may be doing the same.
Don’t let others fall into the trap
Report suspect online behaviour. Don’t engage. Online bullies and trolls get empowered when people engage them in their posts. While some of these guys and girls don’t really have an agenda except to make other people feel terrible, some entities monitor the reactions to these posts to build a profile on you.
If you respond to a political troll, for example, it can be used to determine your political inclinations. From there, political campaigns can send ads to your social media account to influence your voting habits.
Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm got in hot waters just a few years ago for engaging in a scheme that’s similar to this. They used a fun and a seemingly benign Facebook personality quiz to find out more about people’s political inclinations and sold that information to political campaigns. These allowed candidates who engaged in their services to target specific groups of people with appropriate ads to win their votes.
Reporting these kinds of post when you see them might make a difference in keeping others from falling into the trap.
While that’s all well and good. It’s a fair trade between getting free service such as Facebook which is paramount in getting people connected nowadays and your digital privacy. And you know that you’re doing it. What’s dangerous is when you don’t know how deep the privacy agreement goes. The Cambridge Analytica scandal that rocked Facebook, for example, has gotten the social media giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg in hot water in the United States Senate because one of its users sold a massive data dump to Russian companies which the Senate believes were used to influence the 2016 elections to favour current president Donald Trump.
Why do we need to go through all of this trouble, you ask? It’s rooted in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticism. It’s how you’re not really free to move and act the way you truly are if you know that you’re being watched by a powerful being.
When a service is free for you, then you’re probably the product. The important customers of this new digital economy are advertisers. What these advertisers do with your information has a lot to do with how you and many others behave. So whether an advertisement on these sites is politically or economically motivated, the fact remains that they have some sort of control on public sentiments.
Isn’t it chilling to know that the apps that you’re enjoying are subtly influencing the decisions you’re making?