You’ve probably had 42 emails already this week to tell you this…
…but we’re going to say it anyway: “Happy Data Privacy Day!”
We’re not going to assail you with an academic argument about asserting your privacy, or provoke you with a polemic positing that privacy and a private life are human rights. (It is, and they are, so let’s save time and crack straight on.)
The problem is that although most of us care about our personal data, few of us want to exclude ourselves entirely from what the internet has to offer.
Indeed, many of us actively enjoy using online services – especially social networks – and making online friends.
Loosely speaking, we’re happy to trade information about our own lives in return for insights into, and enagement with, the lives of other people.
And why shouldn’t we?
So here are a few simple tips to help you indulge more safely…
GET TO KNOW YOUR PRIVACY CONTROLS
Take the time to learn what privacy controls are available in all the apps and online services you use.
Unfortunately, every app and every social network seems to do things differently, with privacy and security options often scattered liberally across numerous Settings pages.
Don’t be afraid to dig through all the options (you may be pleasantly surprised as some of the controls available), and don’t just rely on the default settings.
Try turning off as many data sharing options off as you can, and only turn them back on if you decide you really want and need them.
DECIDE WHAT YOUR DATA IS REALLY WORTH
Sometimes, a service may demand you to share more than you are willing to hand over – your address, phone number or birthday, for example.
If an app or website asks for data that you just don’t think is relevant for what you are getting in return, ask yourself, “Do I really need to sign up for this, or should I find somewhere else that isn’t so nosy?”
BE FAIR TO YOURSELF AND TO OTHERS
Don’t let your friends talk you into airing and sharing more than you’re comfortable with – after all, it’s your digital life and your data, not theirs.
It’s easy to get swept into privacy-sapping online behaviour due to FOMO – the infamous Fear of Missing Out.
If FOMO is a problem for you, take heart: these days, JOMO is a respectable option too.
JOMO is short for the Joy of Missing Out, described in splendidly highbrow fashion by the BBC as “relief from the breathless and guilt-laden need to be perennially switched on.”
The flipside of this is to respect your friends when you have something that includes them – such as a photo – that you want to go public with, but that they would prefer to keep private.
For example, even though the law in your country may allow you to share selfies with your friends even if they ask you not to…
…honour their request, and let them have their JOMO moment.
DON’T LET SCAMMERS INTO YOUR LIFE
Meeting new people online can be fun, and there’s nothing wrong with doing it – just don’t be in too much of a hurry to believe what people tell you about themselves.
As the US public service likes to remind people when they’re making decisions online: Stop. Think. Connect.
Many scams and scammers are actually fairly obvious, as long as you take the time to look for the signs, so:
- Be aware before you share. Every little bit you give away about yourself makes it easier for a scammer to charm you, threaten you, or entice you into an online relationship you didn’t ask for in the first place.
- If in doubt, don’t give it out. If it feels like a scam, back yourself and assume that it is.
- No reply is a often good reply. Never feel compelled to reply out of politeness or completeness. It’s easier to stay out of a wheedler’s clutches if you don’t open the door for a reply-to-your-reply that might entice you into an ongoing conversation.
- Listen to friends and family. Don’t spurn the advice of people who already know you, especially when money is involved. Whether it’s a romance scammer who falsely claims to love you, or a newfound “business associate” who has fraudulently pitched you a “job” in their “company”, don’t let FOMO triumph over JOMO.
ADVICE YOU CAN SHARE WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Are you in the tricky position of having friends or family whom you think have been ensnared by scammers online, but who won’t give you the time of day because they think you’re deliberately trying to puncture their dreams?
Here’s a low-key video where someone with no connection to them says it for you: