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Did you know that last year alone, a staggering 234 million individuals fell victim to data breaches (Hulsey, 2023)? This is not a surprise, considering we live in an age where we’re constantly sharing more of ourselves online.

In today’s digital world, our personal data is constantly under siege. Whether it’s through social media platforms, online shopping sites, or even just browsing the web, our information is collected, stored, and sometimes misused by various databases. With the increasing cases of data breaches and growing privacy concerns, it’s crucial to understand the importance of data privacy and take steps to protect your personal data. Here’s a layperson’s guide to scrubbing your data from harmful databases and ensuring your online privacy remains intact.

Before Scrubbing: Understanding Personal Data and Privacy

Personal data, in simple terms, refers to any information related to an identified or identifiable person. This could include your name, address, email, phone number, and other sensitive data such as credit card numbers or social security details. Online privacy is the right to keep this personal data secure and control over the information others can access about you.

Identifying Data Exposure

The first step in protecting your data privacy is identifying where your data might be stored or exposed. Regular online activities—shopping, social media, subscribing to newsletters, or using cloud services—all involve sharing your personal data. Unfortunately, this data is sometimes stored in databases that are not entirely secure, making them susceptible to data breaches.

Scrubbing Data

  1. Start with Your Accounts – Go through your online accounts and delete any you no longer use. Many sites and services continue to store your information even after you’ve stopped using them. Don’t forget to check old email accounts, shopping sites, and social networks. If there are any accounts you no longer use, be sure to deactivate or delete them.
  2. Tighten Security Settings – Review the privacy settings on each platform to understand how your data is being used and shared. Optimize your privacy settings on the accounts you wish to keep by opting out of any features or settings you’re uncomfortable with. Set your profiles to private, limit sharing of data to necessary purposes only, and use two-factor authentication where available.
  3. Clear Your Browser – Regularly clear your browser history, cookies, and cache to prevent tracking. Consider using privacy-focused browsers or extensions that block trackers.
  4. Check for Data Breaches – Use services that notify you if your email or personal data has been part of a known data breach. Change your passwords immediately if you receive such a notification. For a list of the top-rated identity theft data breach services, click here.
  5. Scrub Your Data from People Search Sites – There are websites designed to aggregate personal data for people-search services. These can be a gold mine for those with ill intentions. Search for yourself on these sites and use their opt-out service to remove your data. Start by regularly searching yourself on popular search engines (like Google) to keep track of any new information or content that may get posted so you can take appropriate action.
  6. Delete Unused Phone Apps – Nowadays, there are apps for almost everything you can think of. If there are any apps that you no longer use on your smartphone, be sure to delete your information from them and then delete them. For the apps you do use, update the settings so you’re sharing as little information as possible with them, and only when needed.
  7. Monitor Your Credit – Keep an eye on your credit report for any suspicious activity that could indicate identity theft or fraud. Credit monitoring services, such as Credit Karma, offer free credit reports to their users whereas IdentityForce provides the best comprehensive credit monitoring. For a full list of top services along with their pros and cons, click here.

Post-Scrubbing: Maintaining Data Hygiene

Online privacy is an ongoing process, even after scrubbing your data. Here are some proactive steps you can take to protect your data:

  1. Be Mindful of Sharing Personal Information – Be cautious about sharing personal information online, especially on social media platforms. By disclosing less information, you maintain greater control over your privacy. Avoid posting sensitive information such as your address, phone number, or financial details.
  2. Regularly Update Privacy Settings and Passwords – Make it a habit to regularly review and update the privacy settings on your online accounts. This includes adjusting who can see your profile information, limiting data sharing with third-party apps, and disabling location tracking when possible. Regularly update your passwords and use a password manager. Refrain from using easy-to-guess passwords.
  3. Use Privacy-Focused Tools – Be cautious with public Wi-Fi; consider using privacy-focused tools and services, such as encrypted messaging apps, virtual private networks (VPNs), and ad blockers. These tools can help minimize the amount of data that’s collected about you while browsing the web.
  4. Review Privacy Policies – Before accepting terms of service for new apps or services, make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to. While it may be tempting to simply click “accept,” it’s worth the effort to at least skim through the policies to understand what you’re consenting to.
  5. Keep Up With Updates – Stay current with updates by ensuring your devices and software are regularly updated with the latest security patches.

Conclusion

The online world carries inherent risks, but by proactively managing your personal data and understanding how to scrub it from potentially harmful databases, you can significantly reduce these risks. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and maintain good data hygiene practices to safeguard your online privacy.

Remember, in the digital age, your data privacy is as important as your physical security. Take the necessary steps to protect it.

Reference

Hulsey, L. (2023, October 16). 2023 is already a record year for data breaches and exposures. Dayton Daily News. https://www.daytondailynews.com/business/2023-is-already-a-record-year-for-data-breaches-and-exposures/U7OU25VFJBHWHPT4AL2WT3LWVQ/

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