Privacy vs Security
The online dilemma
The Internet is awesome; from cat videos to memes, to quite literally having the world at your fingertips. Not only can we lose ourselves in the Internet, but we can also find others. Just like with conventional relationships, building relationships online- whether it's through dating apps, Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook, or anyone of the plethora of other social media sites- we give up a piece of ourselves. We lose some privacy.
Our daily grind and the litany of passwords we have to remember also makes us likely to not secure the information we do want private. Is there a way to browse the internet both securely and privately?
Separating privacy and security
To have a real conversation about privacy and security you've got to know the difference. Security is the integrity and availability of data. It describes how easily information is to access. To help visualize this, imagine that a piece of information (such as your social security number) was money. Leaving $1,000 on your coffee table in your living room is not very secure. This is akin to posting your social security number on a public Facebook page. However, if you put that $1,000 in a safe in your bedroom you have just increased security, and simultaneously lessened the chance of others seeing your money. Online, the cost of lackadaisical security can be much higher than a thousand dollars.
There are several ways to increase your security online, strong passwords, anti-virus software, and keeping all of your software and operating systems updated are just a few simple examples. The cybersecurity industry is projected to be worth $120 billion in 2017. Therefore, it's needless to say that security options are essentially endless.
What is privacy?
Privacy is best described as the appropriate use of information. In the previous example when you placed that $1,000 in your safe you simultaneously increased your privacy. Now, when people enter your living room they won’t be immediately aware that you have $1,000 in the house.
Online, however, privacy does get a bit more complicated. When you offer up any kind of personal information, or even just browse the internet you are entrusting your personal information to someone else. In essence you are telling a stranger a secret- in hopes that they keep it.
Privacy is a tricky thing because everyone has different expectations. The companies you deal with online have a priority to make money. Your privacy is only secondary. Not only to companies and individuals have different expectations, but so do individuals. To you, your salary might be a private piece of information; one that you would only tell your closest friend or significant other. So it stands to reason that the websites you interact with a daily basis don’t know what you deem private unless you tell them. The most obvious example is Facebook. You can choose to make your profile public so anyone can see it-or not- to display your full birthday- or not- to show where and when you went to school and worked- or not.
The curious case of privacy
Once you can differentiate privacy and security then you can better understand the two as they pertain to the Internet. In order to have any kind of privacy you must have security. Without security you lack even the choice to have privacy.
Increasing your privacy
The key to privacy comes down to what you are willing to put online.
With due diligence you can easily improve your privacy. You can start by disabling cookies in your internet browser of choice. These cookies track your path online and provide third parties with your browsing habits. Using incognito mode (in Chrome) and the equivalent on other browsers will prevent any cookies from tracking you. With a 90% market share it might hard to fathom, but using a search engine other than Google, like the respected DuckDuckGo, that keeps no records of search history is another viable option.
Believe it or not there are other browsers besides Chrome; Comodo Dragon, TOR, and Epic Privacy Browser all come highly recommended as privacy minded browsers. Each offers varying degrees of privacy so do some research to find the one that best suits your privacy expectations.
Coupling these techniques and browsers with a virtual private network (VPN) is a route that most go. Finding and installing a reputable VPN is just as easy as any of the aforementioned tips and helps give you 360 degree protection while browsing online. Not only does a VPN protect you online, but it can also open up doors to geo-blocked content and working around firewalls at school and work.
One oft overlooked aspect of security is public Wi-Fi. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: public Wi-Fi is the most dangerous place for your privacy. A talented (and even not so talented) hacker can infiltrate an unsecured network and monitor all traffic that passes through, or set up a fake hotspot in a high traffic area. that network. As a general rule you should never enter sensitive information- like logging into your bank account- on a public network.
Use security to your advantage
It's your job
What all this means is that privacy is in your hands. Security is your best friend; simple things like making strong passwords and using anti-virus software will go a long way. Naturally, companies who hold sensitive information want to keep their user’s information secure. And some companies do take this task seriously. When a new security hole is found (most) companies rush to remove the vulnerability in the form of an update. But an update is no good unless you install it.
There are several additional ways to improve security to protect your privacy. Take the time to do some research and educate yourself about the measures you should be taking to protect yourself.