Imagine walking into a shopping mall, and the attendants already know your full names, where you live, other stores you have been too before you got there, what kind of products you like, your marital status, favorite tv shows, etc. If just thinking about this is creeping you out, then you might be in for a rude shock.
E-commerce (online shopping) is pretty much at par or even more popular than in-store brick and mortar shopping today. However, unlike normal shopping malls, your E-commerce store probably knows everything about you even before you visit their store.
They are also tracking your activity across the web and using the data to recommend products, offers, and other things to you. And E-commerce stores are not alone in this kind of business as there are a dozen other entities that are interested in your data.
Some examples of external players that may be interested in collecting your data and tracking you include:
There is no clear limit to the amount of information your government may have on you and what they do with it. This is especially true in some countries where internet tracking and censorship are very high. With this kind of tracking and data collection, an innocent post or reaction on the internet puts you in some government agency’s radar and could probably land you in jail in some countries.
At the same time, some governments are notorious for putting unusually tight controls over the kind of content and websites you can access. For instance, it’s no secret that the Chinese government routinely bans its citizens from accessing certain websites and social media platforms. It’s even worse if you are a foreigner because you may not know what is not allowed and banned in your destination country.
Internet Service Providers
In countries with little to non-existent net neutrality laws, ISPs often use their privileged position to track what you access on the internet and put unfair controls on your web activity. For instance, some ISPs are notorious for limiting access to foreign streaming, video conferencing, and file-sharing platforms and giving preference to local content providers. This is not only a blatant violation of your privacy but also an unethical business practice in most places.
Did you know that any website you visit today has hundreds of trackers and data harvesting cookies used to collect your device data and track you? A look at the number of trackers installed on a website would reveal dozens of third-party data collection agencies that are not even remotely related to the website you are visiting. In most cases, these third parties collect data on behalf of other entities (such as E-commerce websites) without your knowledge.
Advertisers and Social Media Platforms
Advertisers and social media platforms such as Google and Facebook rely on tracking their users to generate revenue and keep their services free. This might sound like a good deal until you realize just how much these companies know about you. For instance, Facebook alone has over 50,000 data points on each of its users, while Google does not make it a secret that it collects data from Gmail inboxes for advertising purposes.
Why Privacy is a Universal Right
Privacy is a universal and fundamental human right that is recognized under the UN declaration of human rights. It does not matter if your country has any privacy laws or whether any local laws allow external entities to spy on you. There is, therefore, no reason why you should give up your right to ensure that you have access to this right.
How to Protect Your Privacy On the Internet
While you may not control or influence what external entities do about privacy, you certainly can claim your right to privacy on the internet using a VPN. A virtual private network can help keep your data private from data collection entities and trackers on the internet in the following ways:
Masking your IP and physical address- You can change your address and hide your IP address while on the internet using a VPN. For instance, if you are in the USA, you can use a VPN and get Malaysia IP thus blocking these third parties from getting your real location.
Encrypt your data- Any data that comes or leaves your internet device will be encrypted and therefore unreadable to trackers on the web.
All in all, your privacy is your right, and you can claim it at any time. You are not confined to what is handed to you by your internet service provider, government, or device. Stay safe!