Protecting your identity online

Is it possible to really protect your identity online? It's a very good question to be asking. There's really two components to this question which is, how do “you” protect your identity online and how do others that have your identification details protect you in the ever expanding “online” aspect of computing.

The Tech Force is based within the UK and presently Europe, so we can say with some certainty that if a business wants to handle personal identifiable information (PII) and remain in business for a long period of time, that they have to be compliant with the General Data Protection Act (GDPR), which was introduced in 2018. Failure to do so can cost businesses severely through financial penalties/fines which are expensive (up to 4% of global turn over or 20 million euros). Obviously these sums are ridiculously huge and in actual reality for most businesses the Information Commissioners Office in the UK will hand out an appropriate fine. It's only in extreme cases they'll fine in the higher end of the figures, but it's worth noting that fines of up to £500k are not surprising.

Now moving onto how you can protect your identity online. There's a couple of really simple things you can implement to your social life, business life and general activity online which can improve the protection that you're providing to yourself. Lets get started:

1> If you think it's important valuable information, then don't put it online. E.g. keep it out of your email unless absolutely necessary, keep it off your social network websites (facebook/linkedin).

2> If the information does need to be put online, do you need it there permanently? For example, you're now in your 40's/50's, do you really need to have photographs of your drunken nights out online from when you were 35? Does the C.V. / resume that you made 4 years ago, still need to be online? These host valuable information about you.

3> Make accounts unique. If someone is going to steal an account and try to impersonate you, then there is no harder way that to have no connection between them. It's normal if you game and you call yourself “TruDruidMasta” but does it need to connect to your facebook page, or a forum about Barbie dolls? Of course not, but by doing so, you're creating a chain that connects your activity across the internet.

4> This is something I recommend you do in February on an annual basis and after you've got past the novelty of all new things from Christmas. Review your accounts, your phones and computers and those that you do not need, remove the information from them. For example, that online shop you registered with last year, delete the account if you only made one purchase from it and will never likely return in the near future, forget the what if, you can always register again. Clean the data off your old phones and computers, you never know what might happen with them (a trade in, or down the recycling plant – but where do they go after this?).

5> The last one to advise on, would be to stop using your email as a library. Email is like post, and you don't keep every letter you ever receive. Once read and no longer needed, delete the email or print it out and archive it. If you neglect to do this, and someone takes over your email account via malicious means, what could they uncover? Private photographs, love letters, scans of identification, signatures …. I'm sure the end is limitless.

To help enforce the reasons for doing the above, you need to understand why someone would want your information. The answers are actually quite simple, there is financial gains that can be performed, there's the invasion of privacy (often used in blackmail) and there's imitation of the person (disruption to reputation).

Hopefully the above will help minimise personal information being online and in the long run protect your identity.

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