What if we told you that all of your private photos and videos were one screen recording away from being exposed for the world to see?
Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are so much more than just places to upload your vacation pictures. For most people, it’s an inside view of their personal interests and opinions. This makes privacy an issue of utmost importance.
We’ll be discussing why you can never have complete privacy online since anything can be scraped, hacked or recorded.
Suffice to say; you might want to think twice before tweeting that.
Private social media accounts aren’t private
We know what you’re thinking.
“My account is set to private, so only my followers can see what I post!”
Here’s the thing: private accounts aren’t really private.
One screenshot of your posts can turn a picture shared with a close group of friends into a public domain.
To make matters worse, you aren’t notified when someone takes a screenshot of your Instagram story or your posts. This worsens the issue, as you likely won’t know the breach until it’s far too late to do anything about it.
Public accounts are susceptible to web scraping
In simple terms, web scraping is when scraper bots browse through social media feeds and profiles to obtain data in the form of likes, comments and the number of followers people have. This is usually done for marketing purposes, but it’s still an invasion of your privacy.
Here are steps you can take to avoid being scraped:
- Set your account to private. If your information isn’t publicly available, web scraping bots used by third-party companies can’t read them.
- Delete followers you don’t recognise. These bots can gain access to your account data and other posts by posing as one of your followers.
- Accept new requests cautiously. Once your account is set to private, you will now receive a notification if someone wants to follow you. If you don’t know the person in real life, consider declining the request.
Your employer follows you on social media
Your future employer says hello.
Increasing numbers of employers are running background checks on their interviewees to get a better sense of who they are after they clock out of work.
According to the Manifest Recruitment Survey 2020, 90% of employers say social media is essential when evaluating candidates. It also revealed that 79% of HR professionals have turned down a job candidate because of inappropriate content on their social media.
Your social media provides employers with a glimpse of who they are behind their resume. It also acts as a fact-checking tool for employers so they can tell if you lied on your resume or during the interview.
Think of it this way: Your employer is one Google search away from unearthing your private thoughts on Twitter. Or discovering what you were really doing on Friday when you called in sick.
Helpful tip: Don’t erase your entire profile. Employers will find it suspicious that they can’t find you online, or worse still, they might see a blank profile and think you have something to hide.
Instead, you should go through your social media accounts and remove any compromising material you might have posted. However, you don’t have to remove everything that hints at you being unprofessional. You can leave posts that show off your fun personality but make sure there’s nothing to suggest that hiring you would be a mistake.
Remember: You can’t possibly know exactly who will see your profile. It’s better to err on the side of caution than to err on the side of unemployment.
How can you be more private online?
At this point, you’re probably wondering what you can do to be more private online. You can do a few things to increase the privacy you get, but you can’t remain completely anonymous.
You could try to use a VPN to prevent your IP address from being shown to websites you visit. But is it possible to use a VPN each time you’re browsing the web? Would you even remember to turn it on each time?
Even off of social media, you’re still being tracked by the websites you visit. These days, even changing your IP address doesn’t entirely solve the challenge because fingerprinting exists.
What is fingerprinting?
Fingerprinting is a process used to identify a device based on specific pointers – like the operating system, type, and version of browser and browser language setting. The fingerprint is then stored in a database on the server’s side.
The process starts when you visit a website. A device fingerprint tracker will collect information about the device you’re using, like the operating system you’re running, or what browser you’re using. You’ll then be assigned a unique “fingerprint”. When this is used in tandem with other points of identification, advertisers will be able to track you much more accurately.
Every product you view and TV shows you watch gives advertisers more information to tailor your ads to. This will lead to more personalised ads since advertisers will know your preferences.
Fingerprinting is more challenging to stop than tracking based on cookies. With cookies, you always had the option of deleting your browser cookies regularly in settings or browsing in incognito mode.
Conclusion: privacy is a myth in the 21st century.
The advertising scene in 2021 is entirely different from what it used to be in the offline days. With the internet, advertisers can target individuals rather than broad demographics. With the average Joe not knowing all the intricacies of being tracked online, all we can do to protect ourselves is control what we put out onto the internet and browse safely.
So, if you’ve ever found yourself talking to a friend about a shoe, only to open your Instagram account and see an ad for the identical shoe…
…you might not be crazy after all.
Can a proxy change this?
Using proxies can improve your privacy. For example, Smartproxy provides you with millions of residential IPs you can use to hide your browsing activities for a really affordable price. These IPs are real private addresses, so your requests will be routed through actual desktop and mobile devices as you browse the web. You can choose virtually any country you’d like to run your requests through, giving the impression that you’re actually browsing from those countries.