Ever wondered how to secure your privacy online? You are not alone. However, it’s clear that the vast majority of people are using digital tools and devices without really knowing the real consequences. It’s a very confusing world and consumers are generally getting it wrong. Internet privacy is a curious if not elusive thing. To wit, the University of Pennsylvania published a study in June 2015 highlighting that

65% [of respondents] do not know that the statement “When a website has a privacy policy, it means the site will not share my information with other websites and companies without my permission” is false.”
– UPENN Study, p4

In other words, consumers wrongly believe that a privacy policy implies that a business will not share their information without their permission. According to a study conducted in 2014 (900 people across 5 countries) by Frog Design, “only 14 percent of people understand that their web-surfing history is being shared.” (HBR article, Customer Data: Designing for Transparency and Trust, by Timothy Morey and Allison Schoop at Frog).

WANTED: Internet privacy

internet privacyDespite the general confusion, it seems that more and more people are becoming aware if not concerned about their lack of privacy. So, have you ever wondered how can you search safely online and browse privately? Do you even believe or know if it is possible to maintain internet privacy? If we all are now more or less aware about the spying and the systematic tracking of our behavior and data, we tend to fall into different camps as to what we are prepared to do about it. To be sure, no matter the protective services and devices one uses, nothing can totally protect us from our own stupidity, errors in judgment or a porous inner circle. We can be giving away our data without thinking about it while shopping (i.e. with a loyalty or club card) or when logging onto an unsecured wifi network, much less clicking on an malicious link. 

Which category are you?

Below is a set of four classifications that I have come up with as to how people approach the privacy issues and their Internet usage. 

Maximum Security Internet

1/ Naivexperts

Some people, that I call Naivexperts, are perfectly comfortable with the notion of exchanging their data for a free service. Typically, Naivexperts know that since the service is free, then we (with our data) are the media. They use the Cloud services rather liberally. They have an ample presence online on a relatively broad cross-section of platforms. To use a surfer analogy, they tend to believe that they can surf without getting caught by the wave.

2/ Vulnerables

A second category of people, the Vulnerables, are also using these free services, but are either not aware or not sufficiently concerned about the way their personal data is being monetized. The Vulnerables might include a larger representation of baby boomers as well as the younger, less experienced, surfers. However, in all likelihood, this is the largest segment of the population.

3/ Stayawayers

internet privacyThen there is a third category of people, the Stayawayers, who are far too nervous or suspicious and who, thus, prefer not “be out there.” They tend to have a negligible presence — to the best of their abilities, that is. This category would include a lot of higher profile business executives, particularly from sectors that are highly regulated (e.g. bankers, lawyers…).

4/ Pro-fessors

Finally, there is also another category of Pro-fessors who are using the Internet with a well-versed method of protecting themselves. They have a superior understanding of the inner workings of the Internet, cyber security and data protection. The motivations for these individuals to stay off or under the radar differ very much, from good to ill-intentioned. And, unlike the immediate assumptions one might have about people who want to stay off the radar, there are plenty of justifiable reasons to do so. Some examples: the country in which you live carries out unrestricted citizen spying, you are a persecuted minority, you believe in the freedom of speech, or simply put, you believe in your own privacy.

Caveat emptor

The bottom line, though, is that other than total abstinence and using the old-fashioned postal service, the regrettable truth is that nothing can truly stop a knowledgeable hacker who has a specific target in mind. 

So, into which camp do you believe you fall? What are the questions that jump to mind as you read this? Please go ahead and drop in your thoughts in the comments!

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