California adopted a digital privacy law to protect consumers in July 2018, a first in US history. Under this law, people have some control over how companies collect and use their information.
Some companies found the law too restrictive, but its proponents believe it is necessary to protect internet users today.
Although the internet has been around for decades, the privacy concept is a novelty.
What Does Privacy Mean?
The European Union adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which fortifies people’s rights online and standardizes data collection. This also happened in 2018. The GDPR has international implications and applies to all persons, natural or legal, who collect and store personal data belonging to users in the EU.
This includes companies that do business in the US. This is why the regulations have been implemented by many US companies, including for their customers in the US.
The GDPR defines the following as personal data:
- Date of birth
- Credit card numbers
- Email address
- Government ID
- Account numbers
- Pseudonymous data
- Location data
Additional protection is available for sensitive personal data:
- Political opinions
- Racial or ethnic origin
- Religious or philosophical beliefs
- Biometric data
- Health information
- Trade union membership
- Genetic data
Under the GDPR, it is still possible to collect sensitive personal data, but a company that wants to gather, store, and use it is obligated to carry out disclosure.
What You Can Do
So, what if your information is online? The best way to check is to do a people search on yourself. Many platforms offer this service today. Then, you can take steps to have any details removed.
You need to contact the webmaster or admin of the websites you want your data removed from. Data can include an embarrassing post on an old forum or old blog articles you no longer wish to be attributed to you. To find the right contact person, check the About us or Contacts section.
At the moment, private websites are not obligated to remove your data. When you contact them, state why you want it taken down. Hopefully, they’ll comply.
Manage Your Digital Footprint
While very few people get away with having no digital footprint whatsoever, you can take steps to minimize it. This will reduce the risk of your personal data being exposed online.
Many people blindly accept websites’ terms and conditions. You should consider ownership, deletion, collection, disclosure, and access to information. This section will explore these aspects in more detail.
You need to know who owns your information and content and how they can use that. See if you can opt out.
Check if you have the right to delete your information and how long it is stored. It goes without saying that you should check the data being collected and stored.
Finally, find out if your data is being shared with third parties, and if so, why.
Get Rid Of Inactive Accounts
Apart from accounts on major social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter, you might have idle ones on sites like Reddit, MySpace, or Tumblr. Do you have accounts on eBay, Amazon, or Gap that you aren’t using? To close them, look for an option to remove or deactivate them in account settings. It is most likely under Security, Privacy, or something similar.
If you can’t find any of these options, google “How to delete” and add the account name. You might find information on how to delete or otherwise remove the account.
Cookies allow third parties to track your behavior and enable companies to show ads for a site you previously viewed. When you close your browser, most cookies are disabled. However, disabling them manually is more effective. Google’s support page has information on disabling cookies on devices.
Customize your settings. The main social media support pages have instructions for adjusting privacy settings.
The Real Basis Of Online Privacy
According to experts, secure data storage is the most fundamental way to protect users’ privacy online. Only people with the right to access the data should be able to read it. Strong encryption is key to this. More and more national security officials and members of senior law enforcement are advocating strong device protection and end-to-end encryption. This can prevent data theft, hacking, and other common issues.