Striving to find more privacy online in 2021

Pushing for privacy for online information.
Published: Jan. 4, 2021 at 8:45 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2021 at 5:43 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The pandemic has pushed more of our daily lives online than ever before, from grocery shopping to work to entertainment, it is all happening online, which means more of your information is online than ever before; so is there a way to protect your privacy?

When you visit websites or make an account on a social media site, streaming platform or shopping app, your movement is tracked and added to your name. Whether you buy or watch something, or even click on an item, that is all added to a profile of you as a web user. All that information can be packaged with other web users on the site and marketed to a third party, which they, in turn, can market to advertisers. And during the pandemic, our information is in more places than ever before.

The Los Angeles Times reported a study that found the average person in 2020 has access to at least four streaming services. USPS said they delivered 1.2 billion more packages in 2020 than in 2019. Market Watch says that from April to September, GrubHub, Postmates, Uber and DoorDash made $5.5 billion in revenue, double the revenue in that span a year ago. Schools and offices around the country utilize programs like Zoom or Mircosoft Teams instead of operating in-person. The rush to go online means more accounts, more information, more traffic, and more data getting filed away under your digital profile, but there are a few ways to work on improving your online privacy.

“The first thing you can do is understand how your data is collected and what happens to that data, by finding out a site’s privacy policies,” said Kassem Fawaz, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Engineering. “Doing this will help you understand what is happening to your information, along with finding out if the site will actually delete your information if you delete your account.”

Knowing that most people will not read through the massive policies, Fawaz recommended visiting sites that compress those policies, showing you what various sites offer for protection. Such places include Proibot and Terms of Service Didn’t Read. It is even possible to track down and request your data be deleted from the services of third-party sites. However, the problematic part of the internet is that once something is out there, it tends to stay on the internet for good. While there are ways to regain some privacy, Fawaz is not encouraging people to stop doing things like shop online. Rather, he hopes that people remember that everything done is collected.

“It is just good to have in the back of your head that every site you visit and the thing you click on is getting collected,” said Fawaz. “Hopefully, knowing what happens with your information on various sites will make everyone a smarter internet user.”

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