Your data is a valuable commodity. To capitalize on the opportunity to sell information about you, companies are following your every move. When you have a cell phone, they may be tracking what apps you use, where you go, who you talk to and more. Other smart devices can listen to your conversations in your home (“Hey Siri!”), keep track of what you view on your TV, and report where you visit and what routes you take to get there. All of this information is collected and sold for profit.
If you’re thinking, “Hey, I don’t think that is right!” then you’re in good company. Consumers are starting to understand the issues and legislators are starting to make laws to aid in the protection of consumers and their rights. Unfortunately, it’s a slow process, so we recommend taking action on your own. The Federal Trade Commission provides the following suggestions on their website, on the page titled “How to Protect Your Privacy Online” along with instructions on how to take action.
- Change your browser privacy settings
- Change your smartphone privacy settings
- Opt out of targeted advertising
- Consider an ad blocker
- Change your internet-connected TV privacy settings
- Opt out of data broker sites that sell your personal information
The power of the opt out
Apple recently introduced an opt out feature on their iPhones. Historically, when you downloaded a new app onto an iPhone, you had to manually opt out of sharing your device’s data. Now when you download a new app on your iPhone, you’ll be asked whether you want to opt in and allow the app to have access to your information.
If you are an iPhone user, start with the opt out and then deliberately select who you wish to give access to your information. And opt out does not have to be global. For instance, a direction function needs your location when you use it, but it does not need to be turned on all the time.
- Leave opt-out as default on iPhones and set default to opt-out on other mobile phone brands.
- Review all apps and turn off tracking and data sharing.
- Actively turn off your phone if you do not wish to be tracked.
- Review all smart devices and select your opt out options. Include TVs and personal assistants in your review.
Protect your web browsing
Companies love to keep tabs on your browsing habits. And it is not just limited to their own sites. They might spy on ALL your activity. They see every website you visit, monitor all your clicks, and track all social media likes and videos you view. They then use this information to determine what you see and read. In short, they control your world view, both in content and in what ads you see.
- Actively use ad blockers such as AdBlock and uBlock.
- Turn off cookies and periodically empty your cache.
- Avoid downloading any and all extensions unless absolutely required.
Use best data protection practices
As the internet and smart devices evolve, so do the thieves that wish to steal your identity and your financial resources. Protect yourself by keeping up-to-date on best data protection practices.
- Vary passwords and user IDs. Keep track of them outside of your computer.
- Keep operating systems and software up-to-date.
- Encrypt your emails and computer hard drive.
- Keep banking information off your cell phone.
- Back up all your devices remotely.
- Use current antivirus software.
- Monitor your credit reports for any suspicious activity.
- Confirm before opening suspicious emails or attachments.
Most importantly, stay informed. In the end, the burden of protecting your data always falls on you.
Andrea L. Blackwelder, CFP®, ChFC, CDFA® and Joseph D. Clemens, CFP®, EA are the founders and partners of Wisdom Wealth Strategies. Their shared passion is simple: to bring financial empowerment, understanding, and peace-of mind to people who wish to improve their financial future, build wealth for their families, and achieve financial independence. Click here to find out more about how you can work with the Denver Financial Advisors at Wisdom Wealth Strategies.