While the privacy settings on your social accounts are important to control, the fact is you don’t have full control over your online identity. It’s not comprised only of the data you post. Businesses are continually tracking your Internet activity and building their own profiles of you.
These profiles are linked to the IP address of your computer or to your email. The latter means companies can build a singular profile of you even as you move from computer to computer or device to device, if you remain logged in to one primary email.
Companies use these profiles to personalize the ads you see online. That can be helpful, if you get a sale offer from one of your favorite online stores. But it’s also dangerous. That ad could be a phishing scam resulting from a breach of your profile.
Hackers can use breached profiles to turn the data a company has collected on you into a weapon used against you. You may start to receive very convincing phishing scams from your favorite online retailers or your bank asking you to log in for a special offer. Hackers may even access and change your account log-in information, locking you out from your social, email and financial accounts and spreading the danger to your contacts.
These precautions may help control the size of the online profile that businesses are able to glean from your online activity:
- Request a dynamic IP address from your Internet service provider (ISP) so it changes every time you log on. This helps avoid having a full backlog of information tied to one IP address.
- Vary the search engines you use, especially if you do the majority of your browsing from one computer or device. This will help leave holes in the profiles the various browsers collect on you.
- Know that your instant messages and chats are logged just like your Internet searches and activity. You aren’t any safer revealing personal data in a chat than you are in an email.
- Regularly clear the cookies your browsers have collected. These allow sites to recognize you when you return and possibly serve you personalized content. But they can also track your Web activity, seeing where you go when you leave the site and posing a danger if a hacker can access the personal data a cookie stores.
- Conduct the majority of your Web searches while you’re logged out of your email.