All your online activity generates a trail of data. Websites, apps, and services collect data on your behaviors, interests, and purchases. Sometimes, this includes personal data, like your Social Security and driver’s license numbers. It can even include data about your physical self, like health data – think about how a smartwatch counts and records how many steps you take.
While it’s true that you cannot control how each byte of data about you and your family is shared and processed, you are not helpless! In many cases, you can control how you share your data with a few simple steps. Remember, your data is precious, and you deserve to be selective about who you share it with.
Here are some simple, easy tips you that will help you manage your data privacy:
Know the tradeoff between privacy and convenience
Nowadays, when you download a new app, open a new online account, or join a new social media platform, you will often be asked for access to your personal information before you can even use it. This data might include your geographic location, contacts, and photos. For businesses that create apps and services, this personal information is tremendously valuable — and you should consider whether the service you get in return is worth the data you must hand over, even if the service is free.
Make informed decisions about sharing your data with businesses or services. Ask yourself questions like:
- Is the service, app, or game worth the amount or type of personal data they want in return?
- Can you control your data privacy and still use the service?
- Is the data requested even relevant for the app or service (for example, “why does a Solitaire game need to know all my contacts”)?
- If you haven’t used an app, service, or account in several months, is it worth keeping around knowing that it might be collecting and sharing your data?
Adjust privacy settings to your comfort level
For every app, account, or device, check the privacy and security settings. These should be easy to find in a Settings section and should take a few moments to change. Set them to your comfort level for personal information sharing; generally, it’s wise to lean on the side of sharing less data, not more.
You don’t have to do this for every account at once, start small and over time you’ll make a habit of adjusting all your settings to your comfort. For links to privacy information and settings of many common apps, retail stores, social media, and more, see Manage Your Privacy Settings.
Protect your data
Data privacy and data security go hand-in-hand. Along with managing your data privacy settings, follow some simple cybersecurity tips to keep it safe. We recommend following the Core 4: