When it comes to setting New Year’s resolutions, there’s the obvious ones: eat better, exercise regularly, lose weight, read more, etc. These are all noble causes—the new year (and decade!) are a great time to evaluate your habits and get your mind and body right.
While your healthy habits may be top of mind, are you putting as much thought into your relationship with technology? Is your personal data as secure as it could be? Are your apps protecting the personal information you put into them every day? While there’s a certain level of risk that comes with using a smartphone, search engines, and social media, there are steps you can take to take back your privacy in the new decade.
Opt out of what you can, whenever possible
Many mobile apps and social media websites come with blurry sharing and privacy settings as the default. However, taking a closer look at these settings across your devices and applications can ensure that you’re not sharing any more information than you absolutely need to in order to use the service.
Facebook made the news recently after trying to defend why they need to track their users’ locations–even when their location settings are turned “off.” But while they double down on deceptive practices, other companies are working to be more proactive about how they notify their users regarding data collection.
Apple users may have noticed the privacy-minded pop-ups in iOS 13 that alert you when an app is actively using your location. Through this notification, you can choose if you’d like to continue sharing your location with the app only when you’re using it, or not at all. Limiting your location sharing in every mobile app can ensure you’re not sharing any personal data with apps that you don’t directly consent to. The latest version of Android also has a similar feature.
Keep this practice in mind when you’re deciding whether to download an app in general. Just last week the Washington Post reported on the use of the SpotterEDU app in many colleges and universities, which allows professors to monitor attendance and participation in class. While building accountability in students doesn’t sound like a bad idea at first, the implications are much worse when you consider ALL of the other personal data that is being collected as a result of the app being turned “on” all the time. This gives universities, corporations, and marketing agencies access to what students are doing and where they’re going—far beyond the walls of the classroom.
Consider Google, Facebook, and Amazon alternatives
It’s no secret that the world’s biggest tech companies are constantly tracking, collecting, and storing our personal data, and then selling it for profit. By ditching these products and services for more ethically-focused ones, we’re sending a message about the kind of technology (and treatment from tech companies!) that we expect and want to see in the future. This decentralizing of the internet contributes to a more ethical, diverse, and democratic technology landscape for all. However, depending on your job, lifestyle, and other factors, it may not be realistic for you to completely ditch Google overnight, and that’s fair. Consider switching from just one Google product to a more independent, pro-privacy one, and go from there. If you’re looking for a starting place, here’s a few suggestions:
- Google Search: DuckDuckGo
- Google Analytics: Simple Analytics
- General project management (Google Drive, Slack, etc): Basecamp
- Mobile/OS: iPhone/iOS
- Browser: Firefox, Brave
- Gmail: ProtonMail
- Google and Facebook ads: ContextCue (that’s us!)
Support pro-privacy research so we can keep fighting the good fight
Even with new data breaches and privacy scandals in the news every day, reining in a data and profit-obsessed tech industry isn’t easy. There are ethically-minded organizations like DuckDuckGo, the Tor Project, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and the ACLU working hard every day to expose the evils of these big corporations that are profiting from our most intimate information—and they need your support. Read up on why privacy is important, spread the word about privacy-focused alternatives with your friends, and demand a more ethical internet for all of us.
Here’s to a decade of taking back our privacy!
Publishers and advertisers are invited to join us on our mission to improve privacy and trust in digital advertising. If you’re not a publisher or advertiser, share our mission with your favorite sites and apps, or tweet about us @contextcue.