How to protect from privacy breach by websites and mobile apps?

By Neeraj Singh | Updated: Mar 31, 2018
Protection of your private data is your responsibility when you submit it to websites and mobile apps. To defend against such privacy breach, keep a vigil before submitting critical data points
Breach of privacy
Private information is the information that you do not want to share with public like your bank account, telephone numbers, mobile numbers, emails, pictures, communications etc. Such information if compromised has the potential to bring havoc in your life, create emotional and legal crisis, influence others against you, reveal & track your location or create various types of unwanted disturbances in life. We all as a citizen have such details due to law enforcement, emotional attachments, fantasies, financial reasons and so on. We do not like to share these data points because of its potential of being misused. Such details are shared on discretion by an individual and only when needed.

Privacy is not yet regulated in India. There are very few websites that have the privacy policy disclosed on their websites. Privacy policy is about the disclosure by the websites and apps about how they will use data collected form you on the website or apps. Will they use the data for self marketing purposes or the data be analyzed or transferred to third party service providers or be used in any other ways.

The current model of free offering apps on internet: You use the apps for free and in return, either agree to get advertisement on the apps or allow your private details to be used as a product. So basically, you become a product for free service offering companies. This is the way you receive free services by software service providers (including social media organization). It would be naïve to believe that this business model will change if one or two big fish are caught doing this type of cheating. You as a user also need to understand that nothing comes for free. The only thing that will change is that it would be written in agreement from now on but will be so disguised and penetrated deeply that you may not find it. When caught with such allegations, these organizations will save their face.

You can protect yourself from data breach from websites and apps by the following guidelines:

Do not give your details on websites

Private details are very important and critical information. Do not provide details on any website unless you feel handing over such details are mandated by law or services cannot be delivered if such details are not provided

Do not give your details on any website which does not have a privacy policy. Read the privacy policy carefully before submitting your details

Be careful when submitting your details to website which are insecure and does not declare any privacy policy. Submit your details only on reputed websites or websites with SSL certificate.

Always read disclaimer and terms of use of the website

Do not subscribe to newsletter

Subscribing to a newsletter automatically means that they will use your email to send you contents and for other purposes like sending notification, advertisements, promotions etc. In this case, you shall read the privacy policy carefully so find out how they intend to use your data.

Do not subscribe to free services

Never subscribe to services that are offered free on websites or mobile apps. Nothing comes for free. They will ask for your information like email, mobile numbers, gender or similar details and this will be the cost of your free services. The worst part is that this kind of deal makes you vulnerable as long as you are using this free app.

They generally force you to agree that you allow them to use your personal details for marketing purposes. This will allow them to distribute your details to other marketing companies.

Add your mobile number in DND list to prevent advertisers to call you

You will notice that mobile or telecom service providers generally advertise for free services to add to their customer base. Because of these free services, they are empowered to add clauses about using your private data the way they wish for. This bargain may prove costly for you. DND (do not disturb) in India is one of the mechanism to prevent advertisers to call you directly but it is not sufficient to protect you from sending notification via emails, SMS, messages using messenger services etc.

Do not browse through public Wi-Fi network

Never use public Wi-Fi networks from a device where you have stored critical information. The most common public places are coffee shops, railway stations and airports.

Never leave your Bluetooth visibility on

If you are using a device capable with communicating using Bluetooth, it will open a floodgate for data theft. Never use Bluetooth devices in public places like malls, shopping complexes, sports yard, theaters, cinemas or conferences etc.

Keep your software and apps updated

New threats arrive rapidly on internet. Software and apps are updated on certain intervals with security patches and vulnerability protection. It is important to keep your apps updated. Old version apps can be easily targeted by malicious software to cheat you and put you to ransom. Ransom ware was the latest example in 2017.

Use VPN services to browse web

Website monitoring is a mechanism to keep advertising business flourishing. All big players like Google, Facebook or Twitter or other platforms monitor your activities regularly to send advertisement of different websites you browse through. Remember that whatever you are doing on internet is being watched. Keeping privacy is not easy because these service providers track you on the basis of your IP address and network address (Subnet) and send advertisement to the sites having dynamic advertising modules like Adsense etc. Using VPN (Virtual private network) services can make it much more difficult to track and monitor your activities on internet by such platforms. This will help you keep your communication private. There are many such services like ExpressVPN, IPVanish etc which use hundreds to locations (subnets) and thousands of IP addresses to juggle for your communication and make it extremely difficult to figure out the exact IP address and location of your browsing and communication. This brings privacy but please remember that this is not full proof. These companies also are bound by the respective country laws to keep data logs and can be shared if there is pressure from government and judicial system.

Update setting

After installation of your mobile apps on android phones, update the app settings on your smartphone with applying appropriate permission and removed unwanted permissions. On iphone with IOS, update the privacy settings of the device (from settings) which overrides the apps default settings.

Use Alternate Browsers

Google, Mozilla, Opera, Safari and Firefox like browsers keep your browsing history and use it for search suggestion. They also store your behavior and browsing pattern. These public services can be tracked by government or other. There are many other browsers that can make you safer when it comes to keeping your privacy important. For this purpose, you can use DuckDuckGo or QWant and similar web browsers.

SUMMARY

There are many other methods employed by the companies for your data theft, but if you are alert and follow strict principle before submitting details, you can protect from vast majority of breach of privacy attempts by malicious websites and mobile apps. Cheers!

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