10 Privacy Tips Everyone Should Know

Finding and Removing Open Source Intelligence

Girl trying to keep her internet data confidential typing password in secret
Picture of Shawn Stewart

Shawn Stewart

Mr. Stewart has 27 years of experience with hundreds of international, commercial, military, and government IT projects. He holds certifications with ISC2, Cisco, Microsoft, CompTIA, ITIL, Novell, and others. He has a Masters in Cybersecurity, a Bachelors in IT, a Minor in Professional Writing, and is a published author.

Cropped shot of two businessmen shaking hands while money passes hands under a tableMark Zuckerberg testified before Congress that privacy is dead. Failures by businesses, industries, and our own governments punctuate the reality. One of the best sources of information hackers, scammers, and pesky sales people use to find and harass you is called Open Source Intelligence, or OSINT. No, that’s not a new show on CBS. It’s your online personal information that has been broadcast to the world. “How is this legal?” One word, Politicians.

What is OSINT?

There are varying degrees of OSINT. All of them include Privacy or you giving information away. Public records are required to be public by law. Businesses litter the Internet with information hoping someone with a pocket full of cash stumbles upon it and calls them to give them said cash. That trick never works, by the way. By far the worst data is voluntarily given by individuals and businesses for various reasons.

I bet you thought I was going to say breaches and hacks. Yes, there are significant records available for sell on the Dark Web of data stolen from organizations, but OSINT is out there legally. While you have no control over stolen data, here are 10 ways to limit your public-facing personal information online. Learn about the Dark Web here (Link).

Global communication network. Data and security concept. Various ethnic group people.

Best Practices for Privacy Settings

Update your social media privacy settings Every app or webpage you log into typically requires you to sign a legal document the literal length of your leg. Alliteration aside, I bet you didn’t bother to read it, did you? Of course not. Buried inside the legalese is the written permission to use your posts, comments, likes, even your voice conversations to send you advertisements. Don’t believe me?

  • Facebook Privacy (Link)
  • Twitter Privacy (Link)
  • Snapchat Privacy (Link)
  • Reddit Privacy (Link)
  • Instagram Privacy (Link)

 

No TikTok? Heck no! You shouldn’t be using the app that literally funnels all the data on your phone to China. There are far too many articles on this topic to list, but here is one (Link).

Where’s LinkedIn? We’ll cover LinkedIn in a future Business OSINT post.

Update your browser privacy settings Privacy settings in your browser prevent tracking cookies, metadata, and even personal data stored in the browser from being passed. First and foremost, you shouldn’t let ANY browser store you passwords, credit cards, or personal information. Read this article to learn what privacy settings are included in each browser and how to enable them (Link).

Use endpoint protection software Most endpoint protection software (OGs – think antivirus) includes browser plug-ins for real-time privacy protection. Be sure to enable automatic updates or manually update regularly.

man with a closed zipper mouthPrivacy By Choice

Stop signing up for stuff! Every time you give out your personal information for a contest, online survey, or sales inquiry, that data is almost 100% repackaged and sold to other organizations. Don’t believe me? Try this social experiment. Sign up for something using a slightly different name and a fresh email address. In six months, see how many inquiries you get to that different name. If you gave out your home address, you will see an influx in marketing and sales flyers showing up in your mailbox addressed to this fake person.

Limit your social media profiles If you’ve ever had to hide from the cartel, I mean, if you want to keep people from knowing too much about you, STOP oversharing. After updating your privacy settings, be mindful of the content you post. Pictures, comments, and pin drops give people waaaay more information about you than needed. Beyond simply letting the world know you’re away on vacation and showing your credit card numbers in pictures, scammers and sales people scour social media for targets.

The bad cat knew too much.Public Records OK, this one can be difficult, especially if you like to drive fast, have a checkered past, or, for some insane reason, enjoy being in court. The law requires all legal proceedings be made public. Nearly every county and state gives you the ability to search legal records online. Trust me, scammers and sales people are searching these records. In some cases, you can limit the information provided and some data might be removed with a request to the agency. Seniors are the biggest target. Read our post about scammers here to see how they use this information (Link).

National Do Not Call Registry I have preached on this before, but the National Do Not Call registry is the database that is meant to prevent unwanted sales calls. Two issues. First, you MUST sign up all your numbers on the webpage (Link). Be sure to add ALL of you phones, home and cell numbers. Second, this only deters legitimate businesses. Scammers don’t care and will still call you asking for gift cards. See our blog on blocking phone calls here (Link).

They’re Always Listening!

Asian man hold smartphone and whispering some secret gossip isolated on white background.Turn off your phone! A better solution is to reduce the phone’s ability to listen to you constantly. Yes, I know it’s convenient to give your phone voice commands, but you limit your privacy doing so. Don’t believe me? Have a conversation out loud about something obscure you’d love to purchase. Something like a 3 foot tall, purple plush teddy bear with wings and a rhinoceros nose. Now, watch the advertisements in your social media apps and online. Are you suddenly seeing teddy bears?

No, I’m not crazy. Well, not about this. It’s real. Read this article from Norton that explains how it works, why, and how to plug your phone’s ears (Link).

Remove other listening devices in your home Guess who else is always listening? Smart Speakers. ALWAYS! The worst part about Smart Speakers? You have no options to limit their snooping. They are basically bugs planted in your home by tech companies to listen to your hopes and dreams and sell you whatever you talk about.

Monkey on a rope attached to "But I Digress"

Seriously. Do yourself a favor and remove these devices from your life.

Testing Your Privacy Leakage

Prepare For A Shock! I don’t mean Googling your name, phone numbers, and street address. Buckle up and be ready to have your mind blown! Go to FastPeopleSearch.com (Link) and search for yourself. HOLY MOLY! This is a collection of all the information you have shared over the years. The good news is you can Opt-Out!

Opting Out – It’s Your Right!

Go to each of the websites listed below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it covers most of the available data. Go to the bottom of the webpages and select “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” or “Opt-Out”. Sometimes it’s hidden at the very bottom. You will be required to provide an email address, which is used both to verify you and send you the necessary opt-out procedures. It’s usually quick and easy. The hard part is getting everyone shown associated with you to do the same.

  • FastPeopleSearch Removal (Link)
  • TruthFinder Removal (Link) – Select “Right to Delete”
  • BeenVerified Removal (Link)
  • PeopleFinders Removal (Link)

 

Yes, there are several companies that will do all this for you for a fee. They guarantee to scrub your private information. I’ve never used one and cannot make recommendations. If you search for your 10-digit phone number (123-456-7890) in Google, it will help you find other sites that have your data and confirm your data was removed.

Keep Calm and Complain

April 06, 2023: Detail of the torches with fire in the Fogaréu Procession, which takes place every year in the City of Goiás, on the eve of Easter.Congratulations! You have taken the first steps to reclaiming your privacy in the digital world. Until the rest of the world follows the European model of data protection and privacy, we’re on our own. Know you have rights to keep your privacy intact. Just know companies aren’t required to make it easy.

Hound your elected officials at all levels to STOP PROFITING ON YOUR PRIVACY! Until they (and their corporate sponsors) feel the pinch in their wallets, they won’t do anything about it.

Eat that Zuckerberg!

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