How concerned are you about your online privacy? Does it bother you when Amazon recommends products you might like, or you see Web ads related to sites you’ve just visited? Do you worry that your online communications could be used against you by an ex-spouse, employer, or insurance company? And while few of us have much to hide from government intelligence agencies, that doesn’t mean we’re all happy about the recent revelations about the NSA and its ilk. What should you do about all this? Besides watching Joe Kissell’s extremely funny “None of Your Business” sketch video, that is?
Concern about privacy is a spectrum, and we all hit it in different places. But it’s a fact that your online activities are being tracked and analyzed. Some of that is good — if you’re going to see ads, wouldn’t you prefer they were for products that weren’t offensive? — but what happens when that targeting results in you being charged higher prices or reveals an embarrassing medical condition to co-workers who see your computer screen? That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but you can take steps to protect yourself from unwanted disclosures.
All this consternation is why Joe Kissell has penned what we believe is a truly essential book, “Take Control of Your Online Privacy.” Aided and edited by our old TidBITS friend Geoff Duncan, Joe has done a fabulous job distilling all the questions we normal people have about privacy — and what can be done about them! — into this 118-page ebook, available now for only $10.
The first step, for those who aren’t already too concerned about privacy, is learning what you have to hide. Even if you consider your life an open book, that doesn’t mean you’d be happy sharing financial details or travel plans with any random stranger. And it’s not just strangers — Joe explains precisely who wants your private data and, equally important, why they want it and how disclosures can come back to haunt you.
His overall goal is to help you develop and maintain a privacy strategy, and, to aid in that effort, he explains how to lock down your Internet connection, how you can browse the Web privately, what you can do to improve email privacy, how to talk and chat privately, and the best ways to share confidential files. “Take Control of Your Online Privacy” even delves into how to keep your usage of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites sort of private — or at least ensure that your social media presence is unlikely to become a problem in the future.
At the end, Joe touches on how your privacy-related actions can affect your children, both now and far in the future when that picture that seemed so cute causes serious embarrassment at school. And once you’ve developed your online privacy strategy, you can use the one-page PDF handout and PDF-based slide deck linked in the “Teach This Book” chapter to help friends, colleagues, and family members understand online privacy issues as well. Please feel free to distribute the handout as widely as you like — it’s a great summary of the main points in “Take Control of Your Online Privacy.”