Here’s How You’ve Been Putting Your Privacy At Risk

In today’s world where we’re all connected, we share and like almost everything on social media. How we feel about a video, the new phone we bought, where we’ll go next, and who will be with us – it all goes online.

We are the digital citizens of this brimming cyber world. We are on Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat, and while we’re there, we are sharing a bit too much about ourselves. Are you unknowingly leaking sensitive information about yourself? Maybe you don’t realize this, but there are some ways in which most of us leak our details to others.

Using Public Computers

We all have used a public computer at least once in our lifetime. It might be to quickly check our email or to download an important file from Dropbox – if you don’t take precautions, you can leave your data on these openly accessible systems.

Keeping your information safe on public computers is not very difficult. Just make sure to run the private mode when using a browser. You can also check this advisory by Microsoft about using public computers. If you have to enter sensitive information, like logging into a bank account, you can use the Tails operating system. It can be run on a public computer from your USB stick or DVD. It encrypts your emails and other data so you can be safe even on an open system.

Sharing Your Phone’s Location

If you’ve turned on the GPS of your phone, it will track your location wherever you go. It can be a great feature to find friends and hang out with them, but it also shares your location data with just about any application that asks for it. So basically, while you think your GPS tracker is doing a great job for you, it’s also leaking your location to others without your knowledge.

To make sure that apps do not read your private location data, pay attention to their privilege requests when you download them. While there is a genuine reason for Google Maps to ask for your location, Angry Birds wouldn’t need that kind of information. If an app requests location data when it doesn’t really need it, decline its request. It’s easy to do that on both Android and iOS.

Sharing Photos with GPS Metadata

When you post photos on Facebook, you’re giving away your location through the metadata contained in those images. When you click a photo, it contains the location in its metadata. So if a stranger is browsing through your pics on Facebook, they can easily tell where you are.

To remove your location info from the metadata of your photos, you can use apps like Pixelgrade for Android and deGeo for iPhone. It’s not safe to share your location when you’re away from home. Stripping away GPS information from your photos won’t take long, so we would recommend doing that.

Always Staying Logged In

Websites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter keep a track of your activities to understand your behavior and throw the right ads your way. For this, they use cookies which are small files stored on your computer, tracking the sites you visit. You can block all cookies using a browser extension like Disconnect. However, it is still a good idea to clear your cookies regularly.

Connecting All Services

While it’s a great thing that your apps can easily be integrated into your social media accounts, it can be risky for your privacy. When you link an app to your Facebook account, it gets access to your contact information. When the app asks for permissions to connect to your social media channel, go through the privileges it requests. If an app requests permission to post on your behalf, you might want to reconsider installing it. It might be a legit app, but if it’s not, it can spam your timeline with malware.

If you want to check the permissions granted to your apps on Facebook, go to Privacy Settings and select the Apps tab. It will show you the apps along with their privilege lists. You can edit their privileges or delete them if you want.

Using Public Wi-Fi

When you use public Wi-Fi, you are risking your privacy and security because hackers can snoop on your data and steal your personal and financial information on an open network.

When you use public Wi-Fi that you trust, such as your local café, make sure the Wi-Fi actually does belong to the trusted party and is not just another public network with the same name set up by hackers.

To make sure you’re protected when using a public connection, you can use a VPN service. VPN services like ExpressVPN and HideMyAss can keep you protected when you use your login details on a public Wi-Fi. In fact, a VPN can also help you stay safe from hackers that snoop on your data when you’re working from your home connection.

Related: Using a VPN on your smartphone