Tag Archives: Data

Your Guide to VPN and Online Security

Privacy on the internet. At times, it’s almost blasphemous to think we can attain it, right? We hear about company A getting hacked and service B scanning all of your outbound data for reasons they don’t disclose all the time, then you have the government who thinks It’s ok to know your exact location, thoughts and details at all times — but I digress. So what can you do to protect yourself? Should you only open private sessions in your favorite browser (which conceals NOTHING from your ISP or network admin — you’re only fooling yourself), should we be terrified of the technological world around us and never take advantage of these mind-blowing tools around us? No, don’t be silly. Although, there are a wealth of ways to be tracked online without your consent or knowledge, there’s also a wealth of tech and tips to help keep you flying under the radar.
What are two helps?  VPN and increased scrutiny of your online habits.

What kind of tool is a VPN, really?  Source Webopedia: ” A virtual private network (VPN) is a network that is constructed using public wires — usually the Internet — to connect to a private network, such as a company’s internal network. There are a number of systems that enable you to create networks using the Internet as the medium for transporting data. It secures the private network as these systems use encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.”  Nowadays, with US citizens and those of other nations constantly being watched, a VPN is almost a must to maintain privacy and ensure that you can access the internet that YOU want to access — not one that your ISP or anyone says you should access.  What’s worse, now, is that many regulations that have been successfully put in place in the FCC to protect the privacy of consumers are on the brink of being reversed by politicians, who want to put more money inside these large corporations pockets.  Essentially, we are entering a state of extreme monitoring by government bodies that infringes on our rights in more than enough ways to count.
So what VPN should you get?  VPNs come in a variety of “flavors” and tiers.  There are free options that can incorporate into your browser, via an extension, such as BetterNet.  In addition, there are other VPNs that require a yearly subscription, but offer far more server options (good if the servers you connect to are full of other users — more users equals more traffic going through that host, which can make your overall connection slower), more bandwidth, no ads and overall greater performance.  Some popular paid VPNs are PrivateInternetAccess, IPVanish, ExpressVPN, NordVPN and more (please find a valuable VPN article, Source: PCMag, here).

What’s an example of scrutiny?  Have you ever read a EULA (end user license agreement) to see how a company actually uses your data?  (Pro tip: Read every EULA you can, but do it efficiently.  Open the “Find” feature by hitting Ctrl + F on your keyboard and keyword search for things you are concerned about, such as “data”, “information”, “privacy” and “ads” to see what you’re really signing up for).  Companies are very clever and most people are so anxious to use the latest app or service that is free — they forget to read what they are giving up in order to get that service.  After all, it’s fun getting an inbox of unsolicited emails and having all moves you make on your devices tracked, right?  NOPE.

TLDR; We have officially entered an age where we all need to carefully watch what we do online, apps that we install and more.  It’s always been something to think about; however, at this point we are at the greatest risk of losing our right to privacy while traversing the internet.  The surveillance state is becoming something that could soon be upon us.  Please arm yourselves with the necessary tools to keep your data safe.

Google and Data Collection

Fear, stutter and shake at the big bad Google, Apple, Yahoo and others — these companies are here to invade your privacy, steal your data and give you no way of understanding and seeing what they are doing.  False — at least not for all of these companies that are in the public eye.
This is how companies make their money
First, all companies that provide a free service are not out to get you.  Your data is NOT more important or special than anyone else’s.  But….  Your data is how you pay for a free service.  Let me explain.  Companies like Google make their money off of ads and serving those relevant ads to you.  In fact, 89% of Google’s revenue comes from serving ads.  Where do those ads come from?  Typically, search results that you enter and things that you click.
Companies are matched to a user based off of what they have entered into the search bar and pay for being promoted.  This type of promotion is called Google AdWords, learn more here.
Since more and more queries are being pushed into search this model tells companies that having an online ad would be value — making them pay top dollar to be placed in that section.  Additionally, there is a publisher program called Google AdSense and it allow webmasters to make money by displaying relevant ads on websites and blogs, learn more here.
Data Collection
Companies collect data off of you that you willingly provide.  Yes, I said willingly.  Terms of Service is one of the biggest “gotchas” in the industry, primarily because people don’t take the time to read them and wonder why company XYZ suddenly has their email address.  If you take the time to browse through you can easily see exactly what information the company will give away and what will not be given away.  If we continue to look at Google, they benefit off of not selling your data, instead they house that data to be used in-house between other connecting Google services, which in turn makes YOUR overall user-experience that much better.  If you need to know more information, check out Google’s privacy policy for yourself here.
Source: Quora

Bottom line:  If there is an ad you don’t like from Google an email you don’t appreciate getting, go through the necessary channels and stop it from happening.  Google’s My Account dashboard will give you a bird’s eye view into your account — that is something that 99% of other companies that collect data will not do.  This page will allow you to tailor the experience that you get and change the types of ads that you see.
Most importantly, just remember that these options are there rather than complaining that a company is stealing your data.  First, look into the company and their privacy policy, it may just surprise you.  All of these companies are not evil and out to get you; yet, they are trying to make money just like you.  There are services in this world that can truly make your life easier and if you are afraid of typing something into a search box — then you deserve to miss out.