What is "personal digital privacy"? Personal digital privacy refers to the level of privacy one has over their personal information and data online and in digital spaces. Private citizens' information is often times mined by corporations and/or websites to either be sold to third parties or to create targeted advertisements. There are several organizations working on strengthening the rights of private citizens online, including how they can protect their personal data.
Personal digital data can also be exploited by scammers, hackers, and other bad actors to hijack accounts for financial gain. Private citizens do have some options for protecting their own information and data online to an extent, and this guide will help you decide which actions work best for you. The level of personal digital privacy you attain is up to you, and it depends on how you would like to behave in digital spaces.
What is "digital hygiene"? Digital hygiene refers to those actions individual private citizens decide to take to protect their personal data online, when using devices, and in digital spaces. Following good digital hygiene will protect you from being exploited by companies, advertisements, and hackers/scammers. This guide will offer good recommendations on how to maintain good digital hygiene.
Steps to Getting Started
Download and start using a password manager. Password managers securely store all your passwords to all your accounts. They help generate secure, random passwords. The best part is, you can make them complicated because you no longer need to memorize them. They're in the manager! Take this opportunity to change your passwords in favor of something more complex.
Many also offer an authenticator tool for multi-factor authentication. You can download your password manager's app for your phone and install a browser plugin for convenience! Some password manager options are:
Learn more about password managers, digital hygiene, and which managers to look into here!
Authenticator apps are apps that you can use on your phone or desktop that help in the multi-factor authentication process. Multi-factor authentication is a great security measure, but if it is tied to your phone number (as many are), you open yourself up to the risk of Sim Swapping or full account take-overs.
If a scammer or hacker gets access to one of your accounts, it becomes easier to access more of them (more on this later). Authenticator apps put an extra layer of protection between your accounts and a hacker, because the important authetication code is sent to an independent app, not your phone number. You maintain some level of control. Here are some authentication apps to consider:
As mentioned above, if hackers or scammers gain access to one of your accounts it becomes easier for them to access more. This is partly possible because folks will use their Google or Facebook accounts to log in to other accounts they create. This opens the floodgates for hackers. If you want to manage these connections, follow the steps linked below:
Not all of the tips in this article will be 100% effective, but it's a good place to start
Lock Down Social Media
We know social media is supposed to feel social, but hackers and scammers will comb through your accounts to get detailed and specific information about you. They use this information to engage in social engineering. This tactic helps hackers and scammers manipulate you into clicking on harmful links or sharing two-factor authentication codes with them. It's very successful. Here's what we recommend to reduce your social engineering risk:
Go private on your accounts
Untag yourself from photos and ask others to untag you
Google yourself to see what pops up, then try to delete old accounts and information you don't want appearing in a Google search
Protect Your Messages
We live in a world where we need to protect our privacy more than ever. NEVER USE SOCIAL MEDIA for important messages to loved ones or friends concerning your health and safety. If you are in a position where you need to seek certain medical services in the U.S., do not discuss these topics over social media messaging. Even if your accounts are set to private, your messages can be handed over to authorities. Do not discuss these topics using your standard messaging app. DOWNLOAD SIGNAL and ask the people you are communicating with to download and use Signal as well.
Signal messages are end-to-end encrypted as long as both users are using the app. They do not allow tracking or ads. And most importantly, they do not have access to your messages. Because Signal itself cannot access your messages, law enforcement and other authorities cannot access them either, not even with a subpoena.
"Signal is designed to never collect or store any sensitive information. Signal messages and calls cannot be accessed by us or other third parties because they are always end-to-end encrypted, private, and secure."
Control Your Smartphone Data
Your smartphone is constantly collecting data about you: where you go, what you say, what you purchase, who you're with, etc. But you can control a lot of this! Follow Data Detox's very simple step-by-step guide to set your smartphone settings in a way that prioritizes your privacy:
Data Detox is a wonderful resource for anyone looking to improve their digital hygiene! You can browse their site at take advantage of all of their how-tos and tutorials. We recommend their Data Detox X Youth workbook. It goes through pretty much everything from digital hygiene to navigating misinformation.