James MacDonald
James MacDonald

How private are your online activities?, asks Connect in Private's James MacDonald.

As a consumer and web surfer, how private are your online activities? No one wants to admit that their internet use is recorded or monitored by a third party, but it's a sad reality. Think about it: Even when you're researching something as innocent as a weight-loss plan, ads featured on the site directly correlate to your recent interests – and some even target your location.

Because the internet is a venue where you constantly share personal information (through social media, blogs,
e-commerce, online banking and more), web surfers should be concerned about their privacy. Websites aren't only gathering the information and spitting it back out in the form of ads, they're also keeping a log of your data as part of a master profile. That saved data can give advertisers, government officials, investigators and online criminals an alarmingly accurate profile of our lives – and, in the long run, damage or destroy our credibility. Scary stuff.

Ask yourself this: If I saw someone sifting through my recycling bin, would I be concerned? Personal information collected online by third parties represents a new-age version of ‘dumpster diving,' and there are no repercussions for the offending party. It doesn't matter what you're doing online, the fact is you have an inherent right to your privacy.

This is a call to action for consumers everywhere: Stop giving away your private information. It's time to be more vigilant in protecting our privacy online – for our family, for our friends and for ourselves.

Use pseudonyms when responding to blogs or news articles and enable the strictest privacy settings on social media sites. Further, frequently run anti-adware, anti-malware and anti-virus software. It's also important to be cautious when responding to online polls.

For now, these are the only defense mechanisms we have to protect our personal information, so make use of them.