Protecting yourself online

Protecting yourself online

To understand what personal information you’re giving up, as well as how and where it’s used is the first step to protecting your online data.
At the EF Hutton Talks Conference Series on Monday, June 25th, Zachary Heck, an attorney at Taft Law in Dayton, Ohio explained how we can protect ourselves and search for transparency.

One of the first steps is to understand what information is accessible and identify a risk level if it’s compromised. Information such as personal identity information could be considered lower risk, while your bank or health information is considered high risk.

Next, you should know where your data is located. Heck said it’s important to map the location otherwise it can be difficult to locate. It could be stored in a technical location (servers, databases), or a physical location: Exposed or locked up. “Identify what you have and where it is, then you can better protect it,” said Heck.

One of the primary purposes of sharing user data is for ads. When you search online for specific products, that information can be stored in cookies, which save files and links. Ads for those products can later show up on your browser when you search the web for something entirely different. “So, that’s a big part of trying to figure out as individuals what data we give up, what data we put out there on to the internet, and where we drop it, who’s collecting it and what they are using it for,” said Heck. Social media isn’t the only culprit of data exposure.

One example Heck provided was a data breach from, a website targeted to those who want to cheat on their spouses. The breach not only exposed who was using the site, but which companies or government entities they were affiliated with because users registered with their work email addresses.
In order to find out what and who your data is exposed to, it’s important to read the terms and conditions prior to using the product. Heck said a good policy is short, clearly written and someone with a sixth-grade education could understand. It’s usually located on the bottom of a website. Typically, a user has the choice of consent.

“If you don’t want to share it, don’t use the service, don’t use the product,” Heck said. One important detail to remember about user data is the difference between privacy and security. Privacy is controlling when and what information is shared about you to someone else. Security is the capability to implement that control.

“You can’t have privacy without security but you can have security without privacy.” Said Heck. Before you expose your information on the internet, be aware of what you’re sharing and to whom. Some knowledge can go a long way.

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