Guide to Big Data and Privacy – How to Ensure You Are Protected

Have you ever just thought of buying a new couch, for example, and suddenly started seeing furniture ads on Facebook, Instagram, everywhere you went online? 

Or perhaps you started a conversation with your friend about your new fitness regime and then suddenly got bombarded with health and fitness sponsored posts on every social media platform? 

While it’s easy to assume that that’s simply your devices listening in on you, that’s not (always) the case. Most commonly, advertisers use the data they have about you to present you with the most relevant products/services you’re most likely to get. 

Your personal data that’s readily available online and that can easily be gathered and analyzed through any data scraping API can be used to determine who you are and to predict your online behavior. 

But that’s not all. Let’s take a closer look at the world of Big Data and see what you can do to take your online privacy up a notch. 

Big Data and Privacy Concerns 

You’ve likely come across the term “Big Data” by now, but do you know what it means? Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about Big Data, and not everyone is aware of just how impactful it can be. 

First and foremost, it’s critical to understand that virtually everyone collects your data, which is just a tiny fragment of Big Data, and that’s not always a bad thing. 

The Impact of Big Data 

You wouldn’t have such a great, personalized experience on e-commerce sites like Shopify or Amazon without Big Data. 

If your favorite local business didn’t build an online community and collect your data, you wouldn’t receive such relevant discounts and offers as you likely do.  

Every single type of business needs data to perform even the simplest of daily tasks. Sales data, consumer data, and more are critical for optimizing processes and pricing, developing better marketing strategies, and delivering a more immersive experience to the customer – to you. 

And you often willingly allow businesses to collect, analyze, and process your data without a second thought. 

Willingness to Share Data 

Over 90% of consumers would share behavioral data to receive benefits like cheaper or simply easier shopping experience. You willingly share your data with “free” social media platforms; you accept tracking cookies and terms of use without even scanning them to learn what they’re about. 

Even if you don’t care about your online anonymity and think that you’ve got nothing to hide, it’s still crucial that you understand that your data is potentially putting you at risk. 

Data breaches, for example, have become larger in number and impact, and a single breach could expose your financial records, medical records, personal online accounts, physical location, and more. 

And it doesn’t even have to be a breach in a company that you interact with directly. 

More and more businesses rely on data scraping API to understand their target market or build their email list. 

They collect your information that’s freely available on the internet. If they have a breach, it’s your information that will be leaked, even if you’ve never heard of the company before, let alone done business with it. 

Steps to Ensure Your Privacy 

While everyone’s always trying to collect your private data, whether it’s a valid or invalid reason, it doesn’t mean that you have no way of protecting yourself. 

Ensuring your privacy is neither a complicated nor an expensive process. A few preemptive steps can help you keep your private data private. 

Forget About Incognito/Private Mode

Many people are under the wrong impression that their browsers’ incognito or private mode keeps them anonymous online and secures their data. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Incognito mode provides only a false sense of security, and you should avoid it if you want to protect your data. 

Even in incognito mode, sites can still collect your data, monitor your online behavior, see your IP address, and identify you. Even your ISP still knows what you’re doing online. 

Incognito mode is only useful if you don’t want others who have access to your device to see your browsing history. After every session, incognito mode deletes your cookies and history and logs you out of your accounts. That’s it. 

So, only use it if you don’t want your household members to know what you do online. Don’t use it if you want to be anonymous online; it doesn’t work. 

Install Secure Browsers 

Believe it or not, your browser might be your biggest privacy concern. Google and Google Chrome are notorious for collecting every possible piece of information about you. 

And while that can be useful and bring unprecedented browsing convenience, it’s a nightmare if you’re concerned about your privacy. 

Firefox has much better privacy settings than Chrome, but if you want to stay anonymous, it might be in your best interest to use secure browsers like Tor. 

Always Use a VPN

If you want to take your privacy and security up a notch, you’ll need to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). It allows you to browse the internet cloaked in anonymity, even hiding your activity from your Internet Service provider. 

A VPN works by creating a secure, private, almost impenetrable “tunnel” between your device and the network, so you can safely use even public Wi-Fi without privacy concerns. 

It scrambles your IP and provides you with a fake new one, allowing you to browse the internet without a worry. More importantly, it encrypts all your data, so even if your connection’s intercepted, your data will remain unreadable. 

However, not all VPNs are made the same, and some can be more harmful than beneficial. Take a look at Cooltechzone VPN reviews to find an effective VPN that meets your needs and ensures your privacy. 

Update Your Software 

A simple yet easily neglected step in ensuring your privacy is updating your software. It’s more important than you may think. 

Software updates are rarely about introducing new features or bringing more functionality. In most cases, they contain important bug fixes and security patches that can help keep you safe. 

If you’re using an outdated piece of software with known security flaws, you’re exposing yourself to immense risk and data breaches. 

So, stop ignoring software updates on both your PC and your phone. 

Additionally, you might want to revise program and app permissions across your devices. Some programs on your PC and apps on your smartphone collect more information than they need to operate normally, so you should try and tighten up your permissions. 

Final Thoughts 

Unfortunately, achieving complete anonymity online is virtually impossible, but there are many steps you can take to regain some privacy and keep your data safe. 

VPNs, software updates, and secure browsers are just some of the things you should rely on if you want to keep your private data private.

Guide to Big Data and Privacy – How to Ensure You Are Protected was last updated May 9th, 2021 by Dean Chester
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About Dean Chester

Dean Chester is a cybersecurity expert and the co-founder of research VPN providers Cooltechzone.Com. While cryptography has been and remains his main passion, he is also interested in the political and social repercussions of internet safety issues.