Digital Agenda Series: A Safer Online Behaviour

From the confidential start in the undergrounds of the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to the everywhere-reaching net it is now, the World Wide Web grew as an amazing communication medium and has greatly improved human rights conditions, starting with freedom of speech. Through different means of communications (blog, social networks and whatnots), the Internet has given marginalised groups a voice and a better exposure, facilitating human rights advocates’ work.

However, in an era where digital seems to take over, how can one be safe on the internet? Today, joining a social network or booking a flight online are, amongst many others, example of John and Jane Doe’s online risky behaviours. But have you ever wondered what you could do so as to avoid personal data to be used for scornful purposes and what rights do you have on it?

Although your personal online behaviour is to be rethought, it is also vital for supranational institutions, such as the European Union, to review the sometimes outdated rules on personal data protection, strengthening, then, individual rights and tackling emerging challenges from globalisation and new technologies. This is why, the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) is going to be your best ally to vanquish online misbehaviours and threats. You can read more about this here and here.

And since we made it clear that your online behaviour must change, here are some tips from the European Commission for a safer use of the World Wide Web:

  • They ask, you do not tell.

Make sure you know the difference between signing up (an email account or a social network profile) and having a comprehensive profile. This would ensure that companies’ data analyses strategies to predict your behaviour (yes, we are talking about those annoying little ads on the right-hand side of your Facebook timeline) do not go too far. Making up an email address could be one solution, should you need not be contacted.

  • Cookies are to be eaten, that is all.

Cookies are ways websites you visit collect your personal information. Reduce the chances to information theft (via false adverts embedded on those websites) by setting your browser to reject third-party cookies.

  • Not-so-easily open Sesame.

Easy-peasy. Do not use the same password everywhere, nor one username on a website as password for another. Hackers can cross-reference.

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet: shuffle them, come up with combinations that cannot be found in dictionaries. Make great use of diacritics of foreign languages (you know those weird signs on top of some letters used to distinguish one letter from another, such as ñ, ö or even å), of capital letters and punctuation. The safer the better.

  • Do not give yourself away.

Think about it: if you can stalk on people or read about them online… So can they. It is common knowledge that once you post a photo or fill in your ‘about’ section on Facebook, they become their propriety, usable for whatever purpose they want, and unfortunately you hardly have any control over it. Still want to fill in those details or post that photo of last night’s party?

Social platforms are a goldmine for data-harvesters, so make things way harder for them by setting your profile(s) to the strictest privacy options. We acknowledge it, sometimes it is too tempting to give yourself away. The urge to rant is unmanageable and feelings are overwhelming: you fall in love, get angry or broken up on, and you want to tell the whole world. Understandable, but think twice before doing it.

  • Close one door before you open the next.

You would not leave your car or your home unlocked, why would you leave your social media account logged in? Do not be foolish and avoid being an easy prey for hackers.

  • Hitchhiking is best in nature, not online.

Secure your Wi-Fi network with a robust password and, when possible, use WPA encryption as it is safer. Thus, you will not have any hitchhiking parasites along the ride.

  • Limit the damage.

Online shopping has almost become the way to shop: more convenient, sometimes cheaper and the perfect place to unearth the rare pearl (and tell your friends it is either handcrafted or a one-off… Yes, we have all done it).

Who has not heard about ASOS, Amazon, ETSY and countless others? Big brands ought to have an online shop, otherwise they would lose a great deal of customers. But do not let your head get to hazy and set your priorities straight: consider using one payment method for online shopping as well as setting a low credit limit.

Want to know how secure you are? Take this quiz and find it all out! (Click on me)

This is the second article from the series of What’s Up Europe articles published by UNITEE every two weeks on the Digital Agenda for Europe, focusing on different sectors of European society: Arts & Culture, Research & Innovation, Politics, Youth & Education, and Employment, Entrepreneurship & SMEs.


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