What Is Online Privacy and Why Is It Important?

What Is Online Privacy and Why Is It Important?
Table Of Contents

It’s pretty safe to say that the internet has taken over our daily lives. We use it for almost everything these days as we spend countless hours surfing the web, sharing memes, and shopping online. While technology has definitely helped us constantly stay entertained and more connected than ever, it’s also created privacy issues that have only, unfortunately, gotten worse as time has gone on.

You might not know it, but every time you visit a website, post on social media or sign up for a new streaming service, you’re leaving a little bit of your personal data behind. This is what is generally called a “digital footprint,” and it can include everything from your name, phone number, email address, and IP address to your physical location, preferences, and financial details. Obviously, it's not ideal.

In a more ideal world, your online personal data would stay personal. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, and your personal data can make some evil people some big bucks. Everyone, from marketers to cybercriminals, is interested in your personal data, and it’s up to you to keep it out of their hands. 

That’s where the concept of online privacy comes in. Also known as internet privacy, online privacy refers to the overall amount of data privacy and security you have while using the internet. If you want to keep your private data, well…private, then you’ll need to understand online privacy and what you can do to improve it. 

What Should You Know About Online Privacy?

First of all, you might be reading this and thinking you know it all. After all, you use strong passwords for all of our online accounts and regularly clear your browser history, so you’re all set, right? We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but you’re wrong.

Online privacy goes much, much further than that and involves protecting information you might not even know you’re sharing.

Earlier, we talked about your digital footprint. Everything that you do online, from the websites you visit, the products you buy, the posts that you visit, and the products that you buy to the posts that you make on social media and the videos that you watch, adds another piece of information about you. Ever noticed how you started receiving ads for something that you had just searched for online? It’s not a coincidence, and it means that you might be oversharing your online info. Creepy, right?

Unfortunately, the consequences of breached online privacy are much worse than those slightly unsettling targeted advertisements. The same information can also be used by cybercriminals for much more evil purposes than retail. 

If your personal data falls into their hands, they could use it to commit identity theft, financial fraud, and more. Needless to say, it’s something that you should be careful to avoid — the ramifications could go from a basic annoyance to life-altering pretty quickly. 

What Is the Risk of Personal Data Exposure?

The evolution of technology means there’s always something new and exciting that can make our online experiences more enjoyable. It also means that cybercriminals are only getting more difficult to stop. 

Personal data like your name, address, phone number, and date of birth can be accessed along with sensitive information like your Social Security number, credit card details, medical records, and more. If you’ve been following the news lately, then you probably noticed that data breaches and identity theft have become increasingly more common.

A data breach is when someone gains unauthorized access to confidential data. These breaches are usually the result of a sophisticated cyberattack with the specific goal of stealing as much information about as many people as possible. Social media platforms are attacked relatively often, but so are tech companies, healthcare providers, banks, schools, and even the government, as all of these entities house tons of valuable data. 

Identity theft is very often the end result of these breaches and involves the unauthorized use of personal data typically in the form of financial fraud. With certain information, a cybercriminal could use your stolen information to take out loans, make unauthorized purchases, and even create a fake identity.

It can take a long time to repair the damage done after being the victim of identity theft, with some people never returning to normal. In this case, prevention is the best cure. 

What Are Common Threats to Online Privacy?

Identity theft and data breaches are only scratching the surface when it comes to threats and vulnerabilities to your online privacy. There are many more threats to your cybersecurity, and actually knowing them can help you prepare.

Malware is short for malicious software that is intentionally designed to cause damage to computers, servers, clients, or networks. Malware includes viruses, worms, ransomware, and spyware. One of the easiest ways for a cybercriminal to install malware on your device is by using a phishing scam. 

For example, if they have access to personal data like your email address, then they can send you an email that looks legit, but when you open it and click on the link inside, it downloads malware directly to your device. Unfortunately, a lot of us have fallen victim to this, but thankfully, it’s not generally the end of the world. 

Also, software isn’t the only thing that can threaten your online security. The people who designed this software can also be a direct threat to your privacy. Hackers are groups of highly skilled people who use extensive technical knowledge to sidestep security systems and access the information stored behind them. 

These people are the modern-day equivalent of “safe crackers” who use their skills to commit cyberattacks and steal valuable personal data. The last thing you want to do is make their job easy by leaving your “safe” open.

How Is Personal Information Collected and Used?

Well, just like your garbage bins are constantly collected and emptied by garbage trucks, online personal data is collected by trackers.

Trackers are tools used by service providers to collect many types of data. Typically, it involves the types of websites that you visit, the time you spend on each page, and your location. This information is then used to create a detailed profile of your online behavior which is then used for targeted advertising, improving user experience, or sold off to third parties for some big bucks. 

Social media platforms are also notorious for collecting the personal data of their users. Every post you like, share, or comment on will be added to a detailed profile created about you behind the scenes. It’s worth reviewing the privacy settings you’ve set for your social media profiles to limit the amount of information you’re allowing them to collect. 

What Is the Role of Privacy Laws and Regulations?

Laws and regulations are constantly being updated to keep up with the evolution of the internet. While these changes might not move at the same pace as tech advancements, they help protect your online privacy. These privacy laws include state, national, and international regulations to help protect the data of online users. 

Take the Privacy Act of 1974, for example. It takes very specific steps to regulate the collection, usage, and disclosure of personal information by governmental agencies. It requires the written consent of the individual before the information can be accessed, making it way more difficult for someone else to access it, thankfully.

Data protection isn’t exclusive to Americans as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe has also been put in place to protect user data and private information. The responsibility for data protection is placed at the feet of businesses that collect it. If a business fails to protect a user’s data or doesn’t notify them of a breach, then they could be subjected to massive fines. 

Some states have even implemented their own laws regarding online privacy. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) aims to protect the privacy of residents of California. This law gives residents the right to know what data is being collected about them, to whom it’s being sold, the ability to prevent these sales, and the option to request a business to delete their information. 

How To Protect Your Online Privacy

Using strong and unique passwords for each of your online accounts is an effective way to protect your online privacy. Doing so will make accessing your personal information way harder for unauthorized users. Going one step further by enabling multi-factor authentication methods like time-sensitive security codes can also be a good plan to put in place. 

The use of virtual private networks (VPNs) is another tool that can help your online privacy. VPNs encrypt your internet connection and make your online activities private and anonymous. It can go a long way toward preventing your personal information from being accessed by cybercriminals, especially when you’re using public Wi-Fi.

Also, review the privacy settings for online platforms or services regularly. It might sound like a time-suck, but many of them offer options for protecting digital privacy by limiting who can view your information and how it can be used. 

What About Safeguarding Your Online Activities?

Antivirus software is a great way to protect yourself from malware and other similar cyber threats. This software regularly scans your device, looking for malware, and takes steps to remove it before it can cause any damage. 

Always make sure that your connection to the internet is as secure as possible. Try to use a trusted and secured private Wi-Fi network whenever possible. If you have to use public Wi-Fi, then make sure to use a VPN to limit the amount of information that you’re leaving behind. 

Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to online privacy. Oversharing highly sensitive information on social networking sites can be extremely risky and make you an easy target for scammers. Always use good judgment when you’re posting something online, and make sure that it isn’t anything too personal. 

Lastly, it’s a good idea to stay current on the latest scams and phishing attempts. There is always a new scam out there, so be wary of all unsolicited emails, texts, or phone calls. Especially the ones that ask for any personal information or have attached links. Make sure to verify the source before you interact with these communication attempts in any way. 

What Is the Impact of Search Engines and Browsers on Privacy?

The way that you use your web browser is another way that you could protect your data. Popular browsers like Chrome, Edge, Safari, and Firefox collect a lot of data about your online activities, including the websites that you visit and your search history on search engines. Limiting their access to this information can help to keep it safe.

Using “incognito” or “private” browsing is one way to limit the amount of data that’s collected about you. You should also take care to clear your cookies regularly, as they can be used to track your online behavior. Regularly updating your devices to use the latest software is another way to increase your security while using. 

What Is the Importance of Personal Responsibility?

While there are plenty of laws, regulations, and technical safeguards that have been created in the name of protecting online privacy, the ultimate responsibility falls on you. Internet users are the ones who are in the best position to protect their personal information online. By following some of the tips that we’ve provided today, you can take better control of your online privacy. 

Make sure that you avoid entering sensitive information like credit cards, social security, or phone numbers online. If you must enter them, then verify the security of the website before you do. If you see a padlock symbol in the browser address bar, then it means the website uses encryption to protect your data, which is a good sign that it’s trustworthy. 

Understanding the basics of online privacy will go a long way toward keeping your info safe. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to prevent online privacy breaches. With the right mindset, you can keep your personal data safe and still enjoy the benefits of using the internet. 

Secure Your Information With Burner

Online privacy is something that’s harder to maintain than ever before. While the list of threats to your online privacy isn’t shrinking, there are plenty of things that you can do to keep it safe. It just takes some awareness, vigilance, and proactive measures. Following the tips that we’ve discussed today is an excellent way to keep your personal information private. 

Of course, using Burner is an easy way to create another layer of protection. The Burner app gives you access to a fake phone number that you can use to keep your actual number hidden. You can use this phone number without any fear of what happens should it fall into the wrong hands. There’s no personal information attached to this number, and you’re free to change it whenever you want. 

Download the Burner app today to start your free seven-day trial and take one giant step toward securing your digital privacy.


Identity Theft Info | USA.gov

What is Malware? | Cisco

 Why Companies Sell Your Data | KSBY

Privacy Act of 1974 | Justice.gov

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