How our digital privacy has changed
Digital privacy is an increasing concern for individuals and businesses since the USA Patriot Act was passed in 2001. One of the best known writers about our eroding digital privacy is Mark Nestmann.
In an article he wrote for the June, 2017 issue of International Living Magazine, Nestmann pointed out these facts:
- Federal agents can scrape passwords from web browsers
- Technology is being developed that would let someone else control your smartphone’s camera
- Cell phone providers routinely hand over phone records and text messages to the federal government.
In addition to the US government, corporations are anxious to get their hands on personal information for marketing purposes. I’ve been advised not to use Gmail because of a lack of privacy, in fact. The International Living article states that Google routinely scans the content of your emails. Nestmann is concerned that the US Congress is close to allowing companies such as AT&T to sell your internet browsing history. See this article for more information.
Selling personal information about you is not new, however – you probably already know that banks have been selling personal information to marketing companies for many years.
Personal identity and digital privacy
One huge concern about digital privacy is the compromise of your own personal identity, which puts your bank accounts and credit card information at risk. In fact, as I was writing this blog, we unexpectedly received new credit cards from Mastercard, stating that “you’re receiving this replacement card because your existing credit card may have been part of a data compromise at a merchant where you do business.” Mastercard elected not to tell us which merchant. But I question if Mastercard’s motive was actually due to a “maybe” data compromise, because we have not used that card in over 2 years. And we’ve gotten no notice from a merchant that there has been a data breach, either.
Digital privacy worries for entrepreneurs
If, like me, you’re an online entrepreneur you’ve got more digital privacy to worry about than normal. I use encrypted software for anything that involves my merchant account, of course. And while those who are very serious about digital privacy don’t use social media accounts, that’s the lifeline of my business so that’s not an option for me.
Here are a few tips, courtesy of Mr. Nestmann, that can help keep your digital information and footprint somewhat private.
- Don’t use the same password for every site you’re on, even though that can turn into a logistical nightmare. Use complex passwords and change them often. I suggest changing passwords for your social media and business accounts at least quarterly, even though that creates a downstream effect.
- Avoid using US based email companies – and that means Gmail and Yahoo. You can buy access to encrypted servers that are located overseas. Two services you can check out are Proton Mail and Enigmail. What’s the advantage to encrypting your email? No one can read it, and you won’t be bombarded with marketing because no one is scanning your emails.
Make sure, too, that you’ve switched your sites over to the HTTPS prefix. We’ve recently scanned all our sites to make sure our web tech person got them all done. (The “S” stands for secure, so that information is encrypted and can’t be read by just anyone.)
You can also use a Virtual Private Network which does not show your location, identify, or browsing history. However, I’ve discovered that some sites (oddly enough, one of our banks) won’t let us access our account using a VPN because the site isn’t then picking up the cookie that they’ve previously placed on the computer. I use and recommend this company: https://privateinternetaccess.com. (That's my own affiliate link.)
Here are the resources I’ve heard of for secure messaging, which includes instant messaging, email, and phone calls. I don't recommend one over the other as I have not personally used any of them yet.
According to Nestmann’s article, the most secure built-in messaging services are WhatsApp and Apple’s own iMessage. However, if you use either of those, keep yourself up to date about data policy changes.
Take these steps and you’ll have a good start on beefing up your digital security for your business and your personal life. For more tips about running your business check out my blog and my YouTube channel, too.
If you’ve got tips about digital security, be sure to share them below. Thanks!