27 Jun 2013

How to protect your digital footprint

After revelations about the extent to which government agencies monitor our online data, the Data Baby and MWR InfoSecurity has a list of hints and tips to help keep your searching private.

How to protect your digital footprint (G)

With every new wave of information about the extent of the UK and US governments’ surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, George Orwell’s Big Brother seems less of a dystopian concept and more of a reality.

And as we increasingly live our life online, it is starting to hit home that much of the information we divulge is far from private.

Technology experts have long pointed out the dangers of posting private information to public sites like Twitter, and some tweeters have felt the weight of the law after a rogue tweet.

But even the platforms we assumed were private, like emails or Skype calls, now appear to be up for grabs, along with our online browsing behaviour.

Follow the data trail

What can we do to protect our own data? Channel 4 News has been looking into these issues through the Data Baby by creating a virtual identity online, “Rebecca Taylor”, every trace of which can be forensically analysed and tracked.

When MWR Info Security and the Data Baby team analysed Rebecca’s online activities after just a few months of virtual life, they found out that it was possible to determine what she likes, where she is, who her friends are and who she emails.

And as the political debate is raging on about our right to privacy, online users can to some extent vote with their feet, and make changes to the way they surf: using various third party options to connect the internet through a proxy server, making your browser history private or disabling GeoTagging for example.

Click on the image below to see the Hints and Tips booklet >

Even regardless of government spying, much of the information we post online is at risk from hacking, or could come back to haunt us in the future. As MWR Info Security consultant Guillermo Lafuente told Channel 4 News: “Social media is a relatively new phenomenon and by its very nature the law can only adapt and respond relatively slowly to such changes in our social habits.

“All the time laws relating to privacy and similar topics are being discussed and refined, but they are still in their infancy and time will be needed to get it right and make sure your information is safe from people who might seek to misuse it.”

After the Prism/NSA scandal put online privacy back in the headlines, MWR Info Security and the Data Baby have compiled a series of hints and tips to help you browse privately and protect your identity.

The lowdown – in brief:

Protect your location > Use a proxy server

Dongles / Mobile devices > Disable location services

Social networks > Turn off the ‘where I am’ functionality

Wireless networks > Use a proxy server

Photos > Disable the GeoTagging functionality

Protect your preferences > Make browser history private

Protect your personal information in social media > Do not use third party apps

Protect your identity > Turn off facial recognition software

Protect your friends > Hide your contact list

Protect your personal documents > Encrypt your data stored in the cloud

Follow the link to see the Hints and Tips booklet with more detailed information>