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Published on December 9th, 2013 | by admin

Take Back Control of Your Online Privacy – Five Tips from AVG Technologies

Any use of any Internet connected device is of value to someone somewhere –AVG’s tips on privacy and tracking blocks

Which side of the fence do you sit on when it comes to online privacy? Do you know why you’ve made this decision? And does it matter? On one side there are people who prefer the traditional mantra of “I’ll be safe and share nothing” while on the other there are those with a “so what?” attitude who leave everything open.

Interestingly, according to AVG Technologies, there is no real right or wrong about this. It actually comes down to asking what you’re trying to protect. By making an informed personal choice, Internet users can take control over who can view and benefit from their online activities.

Michael McKinnon, Security Advisor at AVG Technologies AU, said: “Privacy is now a very difficult concept to define and even more difficult to secure, largely due to a deep lack of awareness of the issues and the ability to resolve them. Many people have no idea of the extent to which their personal information is being collected and traded, while others are put off by the sheer difficulty of trying to find the privacy settings embedded deep in their favourite sites.

What is of concern is not just what personal information is being stolen through hacking and malicious breaches, but also what is simply being ‘collected’. The capture of vast amounts of data by advertising networks, social media sites and businesses from online shopping, Internet surfing and social media use, is resulting in the mass, legal exploitation of once private information.

“Someone told me recently that they don’t have any privacy worries because they’re not on Facebook and don’t have any online profiles. Despite this, I quickly demonstrated to her that with just her name, I could find her date of birth and where she was born in a matter of seconds. Many people don’t appreciate just how visible their information is through government portals and other accessible databases. Presuming you’re safe because you think you’re disconnected is a complete fallacy,” McKinnon said

While governments continue to tackle the issues of tightening existing Privacy laws, AVG believes that consumers should be the ones making the choices about how and where their data will be traded, and by whom.

AVG’s 5 Tips for Controlling Your Online Privacy

1. Consider what’s important to you

Whether you are very concerned or don’t care at all who has access to details of your identity and your online activities, it’s essential that you make an informed decision. Take some time to bring yourself up to date by comparing the privacy policies of a couple of your favourite shopping and social media sites, search for news stories about recent data breaches or look at the Australian Government’s Scamwatch site.  Also consider unsubscribing from unused sites too.

2. Any Internet activity is of value to someone somewhere

Every time you click on a link in an email or on a website you are potentially being tracked. Tracking you might be as harmless as optimising the online ads you see, or worse it could be priming you for a fresh payload of malware. Take active steps to use software that scans links, detects third party cookies and implements Do-Not-Track in the browser.  Stay stealthy for your own sake.

3. Switch on when there are warnings

Whenever your computer pops up warnings, take an active interest.  Many users continue to infect themselves by not paying attention, and there’s only so much your security software is capable of detecting when it comes to new and emerging threats.  And if your security software alerts you to potential risks, don’t ignore them, think before you continue.

4. Too good to be true?

Social Engineering remains one of the most effective tools to identity thieves and scammers. Too many of us respond to improbable offers because of convincing ‘calls to action’ – “You have 6 minutes to win…” – or sheer greed. Why are the Nigerian scammers still in operation and making millions off Australians, despite all the publicity about them? Think before you click: why and how are you being sent the email? If the offer is too good to be true, it almost certainly is.

5. Download a free privacy management tool for mobile devices and desktops

Sophisticated (and free) toolsets such as AVG PrivacyFixallow you to easily monitor and set privacy from a single point of control. From its main dashboard, users can check their privacy exposure and, with one click, be taken directly to the settings pages within each site they use. PrivacyFix provides an automatic block of more than 1,200 trackers that follow online movements; and users can see which websites reserve the right to sell personal data and they can then easily request the deletion of their information. It sends an alert if a visited site presents a privacy risk and when there have been policy changes that may impact on desired privacy settings. PrivacyFix also helps overcome the embarrassing problem of unfriending people. Users simply choose who stays in and who is out of the crowd with posts going only to selected ‘friends’.

McKinnon said: “There’s so much that is positive about our exploration of the online world. It is unfortunate that many people have restricted their participation in social networking because of their inability to control privacy and access to their personal information. With this free app from AVG, you can be as open or hidden as you like. And, you can sit comfortably on the privacy fence.”

For tips on how to balance your Facebook privacy, click here.

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