That’s so blasé: A quick guide on how NOT to expose other people’s privacy online

Your online habits could be affecting the privacy of your friends and family. Take the right steps to safeguard your network today.
Privacy news
4 mins
How to protect people's privacy online.

Whether it’s your old high school friend sharing your Facebook details to level up on Candy Crush or someone willingly forking over their email contacts so they can get a free month of Tidal, there’s a certain I-don’t-care attitude when it comes to sharing info online.

While most apps simply use this information to market ads and software to other people, there’s a gray area that’s become even grayer after the recent FCC repeal.

You may want to think twice before forking over your (or your friends’) contact info. Here’s why.

Apps are making money off your data

So, what’s the big deal about data sharing? Why does it matter?

Everything you do online leaves a digital footprint. The sites you visit, the Amazon Prime purchases you make, even the shows you stream are all used as raw materials to build a ubiquitous online profile of your buying habits. How exactly companies use this data is still unknown.

When it comes down it, oil is no longer the world’s most valuable resource. Data is.

Your online information has become a hot commodity, and third party companies are paying top dollar for it. Being able to mine, analyze, and predict a potential consumer’s browsing habits has become incredibly lucrative. Not only that, but targeted ads have also been found to change the way people behave.

The more you think about, the less concerned you are

If you heard there was a string of break-ins around your neighborhood, you’d take extra care to lock all your doors at night, right? The threat of invasion makes anyone worried. Unfortunately, that same thought process doesn’t always transfer over online.

In fact, studies show people incorporate fewer safeguards when they believe their information is subject to surveillance. The belief is that most people who are worried about government surveillance think there’s nothing they can do, and therefore stop trying to fight back.

This scenario leads to both weaker passwords and a general uninterest when it comes to privacy online. If that wasn’t bad enough, that same attitude could put other people’s privacy at risk.

If an app requests access to your contacts, say no

Social media sites are rife with your private information: age, location, interest, work history, family, friends, etc. When an app or service requests access, it’s not to improve the quality of gameplay; it’s to gain access to your friend’s lists and that sweet, sweet metadata.

The easiest way to help steer clear of data-mining practices is to refuse to give an app permission to your contacts. When first installing an app, game, or service, it usually asks which parts of your network it’s able to access.

Instead of just thumbing over the fine print, take the time to think about why an app or service would need access. If it’s a listening app like Shazam, then having access to your phone’s microphone makes sense; however, for a generic side-scrolling iPhone app, there’s no reason for it.

And if there’s no way around sharing your contacts, create a second email. Think of it as a spam email if you want, it’s an easy (and safe) way to get around exposing your friends to the whim and will of other companies.

Don’t link your Facebook profile

You may have noticed more sites are now offering “Log in with Facebook” or Google options these days. While it’s arguably more convenient for those who have a hard time keeping track of their various passwords, what you may not realize is by doing this you’re inadvertently forking over all your social media info to that site or service.

When you say yes to that tiny popup asking permission to link your accounts, you’re permitting these sites to share data with each other. The sites can then collect even more data about you, which they can then share with other sites—eventually snowballing out of control.

Take the time to check each app’s permissions

While you may not play those old games like Candy Crush as much as you used to, chances are it’s still configured with your Facebook account, which means it’s still actively collecting data on you and your friends.

Facebook’s taken great strides to be more transparent about privacy these days, so take advantage by going through and checking each app’s permissions to see what they’re able to access. If something looks a little fishy, remove it.

The same principle applies to your smartphone too. If something doesn’t make sense (say, a gaming app having access to your maps), restrict it. And if you find those apps you don’t use anymore, delete them.

Don’t stop fighting for your right to privacy, and don’t let other people expose yours as well.