How do you manage your online privacy? Are there certain things you won’t post in certain places? Information you’ll never share online? Or do you assume information about you is accessible anyway?
Before retirement I was a middle school computer teacher at a STEM-oriented school. The head of our department was a woman who had been a programmer, then turned to teaching when her own children started school. She was more forward-thinking than most people about the power of the internet and privacy. She would do nothing online. No Facebook, no online bill-paying — just email. If you search her name you find nothing about her because she has no online presence. I thought she was being over-cautious, but I’ve begun to believe she was right. It’s not convenient to think the way she does, but with the more I learn about how information can be stored, hacked and stolen, I begin to see why the world wide web can be a dangerous place.
I, on the otherhand, embraced the internet. I use Facebook and have more than one email account. I bank and pay bills online, buy merchandize online, and have a couple of web sites. I have a close group of friends on Facebook but never mention in advance times when we will be away from our house, nor tag people in photos, especially children.
I find it creepy that as soon as I look for products on one site, and then I go to Facebook or another site that runs advertisements, I see ads for the very thing I was looking for only moments before. This is just the way the internet works now. Little programs install themselves on people’s computers and add cookies that trace where they’ve been and what their preferences are.
Just today, another news story described another major hack of government computer systems. There have been a stream of these stories over recent years. It seems that whatever sophisticated security systems are enables, hackers find new ways through the walls. With that kind of expertise out there, it seems pointless to worry about something I can’t control. I take precautions, and try to be careful where I wander in cyberspace.