11 Easy Ways to Start Reclaiming Your Family’s Vanishing Privacy

Every day search engines collect our data, companies sell our information, prying algorithms stalk our clicks and our cell phones and apps spy on us in a new and concerning ways.

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

We’re in a privacy conundrum with our tech: We hate it, but we love it; we wanna toss it, but we need it. We love the ease of shopping online, connecting with friends, and downloading useful apps but we forfeit our data every time we feed the cyber beast.

So how do we partake in the many joys of the online world without giving away our family’s precious privacy with every click?

Taking back the privacy we’ve slowly given away online is an ongoing task, much like weeding a garden. We tend to it, water it, and do a little each day to maintain our piece of land hoping to yield a healthy harvest.

Privacy Basics include updating passwords, amping up privacy settings on all social networks, avoiding public Wi-Fi, and using two-step authentication for logins. Still, there’s more much more and here’s a start. Below are ten powerful but sometimes overlooked ways to begin taking back your family’s privacy piece by piece.

Let’s Roll: 11-Step Privacy Take Back Plan

  1. Outsmart Your Smart TV. Our televisions are out-evolving us. With the inclusion of automatic content recognition (ACR) systems built into many smart televisions, a TV can transmit data to analytics companies that can use it for marketing purposes. Go into your smart settings on your TV and turn off this capability. (It’s not always called ACR so you may have to figure out what gimmicky name your TV has ascribed to it).
  2. Secure Your Home Network. Limit your circle of trust when it comes to your home network to protect your family physically and financially. Be sure to name your home network something other than your family name and don’t share your password. Treat your network password the way you would a house key. Think about creating a guest network so visitors can connect without gaining access to your family’s other networked devices or shared files.
  3. Lock all digital doors (screens). I used to think this was a hassle but I’m a true believer in screen locks since I lost my phone one day and realized my banking app, email, and social accounts were exposed. So, take the time to set a password or PIN for every laptop, smartphone, and tablet.  Simply go into your settings and lock all your digital doors.
  4. Shred it. If you don’t own a shredder, you might consider one to gain back some of your privacy. Identity theft via snail mail is still an issue. What kind of information should you shred? Anything containing:
    • Your Social Security Number (even just the last four digits)
    • Your birth date
    • Your credit card numbers
    • Any account numbers from financial institutions
    • Medical insurance numbers
    • Unsolicited credit applications
  5. Stop unsolicited credit offers. Thieves can steal mail from your home and search out discarded mail from landfills that allow them to rack up debt in your name. Stop a lot of these offers by going to optoutprescreen.com or calling 888-567-8688. To stop the other slew of unwanted mail, go to dmachoice.org ($2 charge).
  6. Update all software. When you get an alert to update software — be it your phone, laptop, or tablet — pay attention. Updates ensure that criminals can’t exploit flaws in old software versions to hack into your device. An update alert may look like an administrative task, but it is a powerful way to boost your device security instantly.
  7. Delete unused apps. Approved apps attached to your smartphone, laptop or social networks are always siphoning user data. Just like the garage in your home, junk just naturally collects on our devices. Clean house. Go through your accounts and only the apps you use.
  8. Restrict the power of your browser. Google is a data magnet and the bigger it gets, the more it siphons personal and behavioral data. Go into your browser and adjust the privacy settings to block tracking used by advertisers.
  9. Cover your laptop camera. Got a Post-It note? Tear off a little piece and cover your laptop camera so hackers can’t see anything if they took control of it remotely. Yes, this actually happens so don’t let it happen to you.
  10. Disappear a little. If you are serious about increasing your privacy, take steps to add some mystery to your online presence and pull back on the information you share. A) Go through your Facebook friends and clean house. Don’t know them? Don’t interact? Delete them. B) Disappear on search. Go into your Facebook settings under the “Who Can Look Me Up?” section and change it up. C) Avoid your name being attached to Facebook ads by going into your Ad Settings. D) Hide your personal info such as birthday, hometown, etc.  Many of these provide thieves with possible answers to potential security questions. Using the Privacy Checkup Tool under the padlock on the upper right of any Facebook page to make hide all of this.
  11. Think before sharenting. When it comes to our kids, we love to celebrate, congratulate and mark important mile stones on Facebook and other social sites. But sometimes social sharing by proud parents can put your family (and the relationships with your child) at risk. Get familiar with sharenting best practices to make sure protecting your child’s privacy is always first.

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Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @IntelSec_Family. (Disclosures).

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