Digital Privacy

2 May 2022
By Iris Jastram
Iris Jastram
Iris jastram

ITS works hard to keep your Carleton digital information safe and secure, but for each of us as individuals we also make choices every day that increase or decrease the number of digital footprints we leave across the Internet. Just as we each decide whether it’s important to us to lock our front doors while we’re in the house, or pull the window shades at night, we each have varying needs and desires for digital privacy for our research, work, and personal lives.

For those who want or need greater privacy, it may seem impossible to maintain privacy in the face of highly motivated digital advertising companies and the data collection and tracking they do.* However, there are some relatively simple things you can do if digital privacy is important to you.

Reducing your digital footprints:

  • Be careful about the personally identifiable information you share online
    Refrain from posting anything online in public places that you’d prefer not to have show up in a Google search for your name. And don’t share personally identifiable information even in private places unless necessary. (This can also help reduce your spam email load.)
  • Use your browser’s Incognito window or Private browsing window for private browsing
    Websites and the ads embedded within websites will no longer be able to place or access tracking cookies on your computer.
  • Check the privacy statements for the websites you use
    Look for the “End User License” or “Privacy Policy” or similar that’s often linked from the footer of websites that collect information from you. This should tell you what the person or company will do with your data and whether they will share that information with others.
  • Check out guides and toolkits provided by experts on digital privacy

And of course, nothing protects your privacy as well as good digital security measures designed to keep bad actors out of your personal information:

  • Create strong, unique passwords
  • Use a good password manager to manage all those passwords
  • Keep your computer and browsers updated
  • Pay careful attention to whether you’re on a website that uses secure data transfer (https) vs websites that don’t (http). If posting information about yourself, https websites will protect your information from people trying to spy on your internet activities.

If you’re looking for someone to talk to about options for your own digital privacy, the Reference Librarians at the Gould Library are excellent resources, as are the Academic Technologists and Helpdesk staff.

*  For more information about data brokers and what they do, here’s John Oliver’s explanation from his show Last Week Tonight.

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