Today it’s privacy day. I participate in making people aware about their own privacy with this post.

Social Media Social media, like twitter, facebook, flickr etc are all around us. It’s a great method to stay in contact with friends that are not close, or keep track of people you haven’t seen for a while. However, social media can also be too intrusive. The things you put up there, can (and will) be used against you if there is a reason for it. Now it seems like a nice idea to put up that picture while you were drunk last weekend. But is it still when you want to apply for a new job?

Tip: make sure you reconsider every time you post something. Is it something that can damage me (severely)?.

Personal details On internet it’s becoming easier and easier to hand over your personal details to parties you normally wouldn’t participate with. Who doesn’t know the questionnaires on the web: “what’s your real age”, “which muppet are you?”, “who’s your Star Wars-character?” etc. There are companies that collect all the data you provide. If you always provide the same e-mailadres (for example, because you only have one), all the information you provide is collected in a huge database and that data will be sold. If you don’t use the same e-mailadres, even then other information will be used to glue the different parts of information together in one profile. See also this background article.

Tip: don’t fill in those forms, and if you have to, use a fake e-mailadres or an adres you can throw away afterwards.

Ask that question Does this company really need this information from me? How often did a company require to fill in your birthdate? Companies (websites) ask many details and most of the people just fill those in. Ask those companies why you have to give them that information and make sure you understand their privacy-statements. I know that can be a lot of work, but just make sure you understand the risks. Also you can provide false information if it is for some free stuff. My day of birth is the first of January 1970 on many sites.

Protect yourself The number 1 person to give out your details is yourself. You give your information and expect / hope that the one you’re giving your information too is handling it securely. Always make sure that’s indeed happening. Don’t ever type in information when it’s not over a secure connection (ssl). Even not on this website since I don’t have ssl-certificates for this domain ;). For your Facebook-usage you should activate ssl by default.

Also choose strong passwords if you register yourself somewhere. Even better, use applications like 1Password so you don’t even have to remember the password and you can create strong passwords for all sites you have to register yourself.

Use two-factor authentication if it is offered. Google has a very nice authenticator you can use on your smartest phones and more services are offering two-factor authentication nowadays.

More reading Naturally there are many more tips. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use the internet. I just say everyone should be aware of what privacy means. If you have the time, watch this very nice special about privacy and security. Broadcasted by the VPRO in Holland.