In the olden days, you paid a fee for a product or a service. In today’s digital age, you get quality services like Google Maps or Facebook for free! But in return, you’re letting them know more about you — pivotal information that is used to serve you ads that are most relevant to you. Although these services are immensely helpful, they’re also walking the thin line with respect to privacy. Below are a few tips to try and safeguard your personal information. Having said that, the only way to maintain 100% anonymity online is to not do anything online (and we all know how difficult that is).
Facebook: We may have all received that random fraandship request during our Orkut days, and it’s not like stalkers on Facebook are non-existent. Most of us have our family and friends on FB and we usually share a lot of pictures with them. Not putting up any pictures may be extreme but one can always enable the Timeline review in their privacy settings. This way, you can stop people from tagging you and they would need your permission before a photo or post that you are tagged in shows up on your Timeline. One should also avoid putting their phone number on FB or make it visible to only a select group of friends.
Facebook has highly customisable privacy features. You can create multiple lists and give permissions for different type of content for each list. But then, it can also be tedious to maintain this for some. So, the most basic thing you can do when somebody you don’t really know adds you on Facebook is (other than declining their friend request), add them as friends and then put them in the ‘Restricted’ list, which is available on FB by default.
Twitter: When compared to Facebook, Twitter is way better in keeping your privacy in check. In fact, its an old joke that people join Twitter and interact with strangers to avoid folks on Facebook. On Twitter, one doesn’t need to use their name as their handle. A lot of users don’t tend to put their own picture as a profile picture. To make Twitter even more secure, they’ve given users the facility to protect your tweets by making your account private. People will have to send you a request to follow you. But this in my opinion is too extreme a step to use Twitter effectively. I would rather just keep it open, with one thing in mind — everything I say on Twitter is readable by the rest of the world. So, you never use Twitter to share anything private in the first place.
Truecaller: Truecaller has made life easy by letting us know who is calling even if their number is not stored in our contacts by using crowd-sourced data. It also helps us ignore spam and telemarketing calls. But if you don’t appreciate this facility and want to stay anonymous, you need to manually unlist your number from Truecaller. One drawback though is that you won’t be able to use the Truecaller app yourself using the delisted number.
WhatsApp: For a long time WhatsApp had no privacy settings. But with a recent update they have solved that problem. One can hide their last seen, display picture and status from people or make it available to their contacts only. This is a big boon as earlier everyone could see your display picture and being a girl I get a lot of messages from random numbers.
Facebook Messenger: As much as you may hate to download a separate messenger app to chat with friends, you have no choice as Facebook has now made it mandatory. On Android, Facebook Messenger takes your location by default, you can put this off by tweaking your settings. With regards to iOS, it will ask you for your location when you launch the app for the first time. It is better to disallow as sometimes you maybe chatting with a person who you don’t want to disclose your location to.
And as for Google-baba, you should Google your name and number to see if any unwanted content is published about you. Here’s Google’s tutorial that will help you unlist it. And if you’re a fan of sharing your current locations with people on services like Foursquare (Swarm), it makes sense to “check in” when you are actually leaving a place.
All in all, these are a few tips on how to keep your privacy intact. Of course, you’re never entirely safe — your Twitter identity could be revealed by somebody who knows you in real life or meet through a tweetup. With regards to FB, it is very common to have mutual friends who may not have strict privacy settings as yours. So all in all you can take a lot steps to ensure privacy, but you are never truly out of the radar. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to live without being online in some form, so I guess most of us are in it together.