(Used with permission from Reputation.com)
The best things in life might not be free, but the best ways to protect your online privacy definitely are. Without spending a dime or more than a few minutes of your life, you can make sure that you’re safe from threats as serious as identity thieves or as innocuous (but annoying) as your snooping next-door neighbor. Here’s how.
1. Whenever possible, just say no to cookies. Most sites and browsers will alert you to the fact that visiting a given site stores pieces of data about you on your browser. In theory, this shouldn’t be an issue: the purpose is to tailor content or ads specifically to the user’s tastes. In practice, well, some privacy advocates are concerned about the fact that cookies can be stolen by third-parties with malicious intent, allowing hijackers to impersonate users on sites.
If you can, click “no” when your browser prompts you to store cookies.
2. Password-protect your devices. “Choosing not to password protect your devices is the digital equivalent of leaving your home or car unlocked,” writes the crew over at Forbes. “If you’re lucky, no one will take advantage of the access. Or maybe the contents will be ravaged and your favorite speakers and/or secrets stolen.”
Most digital devices will walk you through an incredibly simple, step-by-step process to set up passwords and other safeguards. In ten minutes, you won’t have to worry that a lost phone could mean someone accessing your personal information and stealing your identity.
3. Don’t use the same passwords on different sites. We know it’s a pain, but using the same password for every site leaves you exposed. If someone cracks your Facebook password, they shouldn’t be able to guess your banking password or vice versa.
4. And while we’re on the subject of Facebook… …don’t put your birth year on social networking sites. You can still reap the good wishes of everyone you’ve ever met by putting in the day and month, and you’re less likely to wind up the victim of ID theft if people don’t have your whole birthdate. Never use any part of your birthday—or your children’s, pets’, etc.—as part of your password.
5. Stay up-to-date on privacy settings changes. Pay attention to news stories about, for example, Facebook’s ever-evolving privacy settings, and update accordingly. Most social networks have a setting that allows you to view your profile as if you were a stranger, or a part of a circle or group. Use those to make sure you know how your information appears to others—and when.