Protecting your private information online

How To Protect Your Private Info Online

If you're like Jessica Merkel, you do everything from your smartphone, but the difference is she always reads the fine print.

"No one ever reads them," Merkel said. "You just click OK because you don't want to sit there wasting your time, but it's not very smart."

Middle Georgia State University professor and information technology expert Johnathan Yerby agrees.

"Every device, every application, has a terms and services that we agree to when we start using those devices," Yerby says.

When you choose to use, Yerby says you're choosing to give up some of your privacy.

"A recent law change allows ISPs, or your internet service providers, to sell your browsing history," Yerby said. "They may not per se sell your specific history, but what they do is they build profiles of your age, your location, your gender, your browsing habits, and they can sell that information."

Yerby says encryption browsing, like going incognito on your laptop, doesn't fully protect your private information. Even though the information isn't visible on your device, your internet service provider still has access to it.

"Your best method to possibly hide, or conceal, or obfuscate your activity, is to use encryption through something like a VPN, a virtual private network," Yerby said.

A VPN is a service that makes your web browsing more secure. Yerby says you can buy one or download one online for free. If you're interested in downloading a VPN, Yerby says you can click here to check out some free options.

Merkel says she protects her privacy using settings on her smart phone. On an iPhone, under privacy, there's a setting for advertising.

"You can actually limit your ad tracking," Merkel said.

But Yerby says limit is the keyword. He says changing your settings won't keep your internet service provider from seeing your virtual footprint.

"You have a choice to make," Yerby said. "Do you want to use this device? Do you want to use this service? If you do, this is the cost. You're giving up information. You're giving up privacy."

For Merkel, the choice is clear. She says she won't be ditching her device.

"It's a lifeline," Merkel said. "I mean, you have to have technology now."

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Here are some additional cybersecurity tips from expert Johnathan Yerby:

1. Use strong passwords: Yerby says use strong passwords that include a combination of capitalized and uncapitalized letters, numbers, and symbols. He also says try to use different passwords for your accounts.

2. Use a security program: Yerby says while these programs might not stop the FBI or CIA from spying on you, they will do a good job of keeping the average hacker away.

4. Cover the cameras on your devices: Yerby says it is possible for someone to turn on your cameras remotely and use them to record you. If you're worried about this, he says you can put tape over your cameras.

5. Unplug or turn off your devices: Yerby says if you're that concerned about your security, keep your devices unplugged or turned off. 

© 2017 WMAZ-TV


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