7 Internet Privacy Myths You Should Be Aware Of

6 min

Enough has been said about protecting one’s privacy while being online. If you’ve been following the TuxlerVPN blog, you already know the different ways in which you can safeguard your privacy and identity online. You also may have read about how to use a VPN to effectively cover your tracks and be safe online.

Yet, we feel there is an air of misinformation floating around the web, about internet privacy in general. There is a lot of misconception about privacy software and web tools too that, if consumed, can eventually influence your actions on the web. This can lead to compromised privacy, online fraud, and other grave cybercrimes.

We recently wrote about common VPN myths and how you can be a better VPN user. And now is the time to crack down on some general privacy myths and learn how to take privacy on the internet seriously. Let’s go.

What is Internet Privacy?

In its most basic sense, internet privacy or online privacy refers to a state where one can safeguard one’s information shared on the internet from being used, stored, repurposed, sold, or displayed by a third party (like a website). Often considered as part of data privacy, internet privacy has been a contentious topic globally. 

Information can either be personally identifiable (PII) or non-PII, and in the realm of VPNs, it mostly has to do with non-PII (such as your web traffic). Regardless of what type of information you share online, internet privacy dictates that it should not be used or altered, at least without your permission.

Why Is Securing Your Privacy Online Important?

Strangers, websites, and companies using, storing, or sharing your data intrude into your privacy in one way or the other. What you may have shared with a friend or on a reliable platform may be used to track or profile you. While some of this tracking is claimed to be for better web experience (as through advertising and marketing requirements), it’s possible that your data could be misused or sold. 

Assume that you have just signed up for a wealth management app using your phone number and email address. Months later, if you get marketing text messages or emails from another finance app or a bank, it’s likely that your information was illegally shared.

While it resulted in only a pesky SMS or email, privacy breaches can be worse. Tech companies collect so much information from their customers that it is enough to predict the customers’ future actions and thereby influence or manipulate them. This is where it gets scary.

Though countries have tried to improve the levels of online privacy, the web remains a hostile world owing to its borderless nature. Strong laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have helped people control what and how much websites and other entities can track during their interaction. However, such laws are toothless against the larger menace of covert surveillance, governmental snooping, and cyberattacks.

At the end of the day, it’s always better to tread with caution and take efforts to safeguard your online privacy than depend on websites, legislators, governments, and online privacy activism. Installing and using a VPN is part of those efforts.

7 Common Privacy Myths Busted

We can avoid being victims of privacy intrusion if we strive to be better informed about online privacy, user behavior tracking, privacy laws, and things we can do to avoid oversharing our information.

What better way to do that than by debunking some myths? Shall we?

Myth #1 – If I avoid social media, no one can track me

You may not be using any of the social networking apps or visiting cookie-collecting websites but you can still be a victim of privacy intrusion or tracking. If you use a smartphone or are somehow connected to the internet, your data – at least non-PII data such as web traffic or click behavior – is being collected by entities such as your phone’s OS partner and/or OEM.

We’ve discussed how 100% anonymity is a myth, so even if you use a VPN but engage yourself in social networking or similar apps, you are being profiled in some way.

What to do: Read the privacy policies and terms of service (TOS) of apps you download and websites you visit. Share as little information about yourself as possible.

Myth #2 – If am not logged in, websites or apps can’t track me

Assuming that being logged out shields you from tracking is another common internet privacy myth. Even if you’re logged out of an app, it can still gather information about you such as your behavior while using competitor apps, your search history, and your location.

Alarmingly, many fintech apps request access to text messages and call logs to provide better experience and automation. However, granting such access is a grave attack on your privacy. 

What to do: Uninstall apps that you don’t use. Grant permission for access to only those data that you are comfortable sharing or which are mandatory for the app’s functioning. If possible, avoid using apps and websites that require constant and compulsory access to your location and media files.

Myth #3 – Better security means better online privacy

Sure, a website with tight TLS-based security is good for you and your data that may be stored on its servers. It will protect you from cyberattacks. But that doesn’t mean your data is safe from internal tracking i.e., the website tracking your behavior and your actions both inside and outside the app.

When we talk about online privacy, we need to be wary of everyone else other than ourselves. An app promising excellent security does not necessarily translate to a customer-friendly privacy policy.

What to do: Measure both the security features and privacy policies of apps and websites before signing up. Use tools like ToS; DR to read the summaries of TOS of popular websites.

Myth #4 – Sharing my non-PII data will not harm me

Non-PII data is anything that cannot be personally tied to you. Data like your location history, behavior on a website, click behavior, etc. are considered non-PII data. Sharing this information may seem innocuous, but the fact is that they too can be tied to you through deanonymization. It’s a process where your non-PII data are matched with your already available PII data.

Since all netizens have an online footprint, it’s possible to match non-PII and PII data points and create a better profile.

What to doAvoid using intrusive apps that ask for a lot of permissions such as camera and media access. Double-check the data points that you grant access to when you sign up with a new app or website.

Myth #5 – General internet users don’t need to worry about their privacy

Ignorance when surfing the web is perhaps the biggest vulnerability among netizens. The assumption that you will not be targeted because you have nothing to hide (from strangers, the government, or law enforcement) is a weak rationale for not worrying about your privacy.

Baring your personal information to strangers and websites online can lead to identity theft, financial fraud, and even worse crimes like extortion

Regardless of how you use the web, it’s always a good idea to shield your privacy and identity with a VPN and other privacy tools

What to do: Stop assuming that privacy is a concern only for an isolated group of people. Take steps to protect your privacy whenever and wherever you are connected to the internet.

Myth #6 – Privacy intrusion happen to only certain kind of people, not me

While it’s true that surveillance and snooping are usually targeted, it’s not always the case. You may be a victim of personal data extraction if you are a user of a particular service. If the service provider’s servers are attacked and pried upon, the attackers may have access to your PII data.

What to do: Cover your tracks and online activities as much as you can. Be wary of sharing your information with apps and websites.

Myth #7 – Websites and network professionals are responsible for my privacy

This is another incorrect assumption related to online privacy. Putting the responsibility of protecting your privacy on the websites you visit and the apps you use is just being lazy.

The onus of protecting your privacy falls entirely on you as it’s your data that is at stake. The Terms of Service and Privacy Policy exist as a way for apps and websites to save themselves in case of litigation. 

What to do: Control what and how much you share with apps and websites online.

A lot of people think that digital privacy itself is a myth. They believe that online privacy protection is unachievable as there’s no way you can be 100% anonymous online. While the part about anonymity is true, the notion that being concerned about digital privacy is a lost cause is a pessimistic take.

As an individual or group, there is a lot you can do to enhance your privacy protection. It usually starts with installing privacy tools and avoiding signing up with random apps and websites.

Looking for a VPN as the first step towards protecting your internet privacy? Try tuxlerVPN.

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