Getting Control Over What You Put Online

There’s a now somewhat old motto, one that many have held as a truism for quite some time: once you put something on the internet, it’s on there forever. It’s true that you cannot completely control how something spreads whenever you post it online. However, while you might not ever be able to erase something completely, there are instances in which you can get back some control to make sure that things like your own intellectual property aren’t freely and flagrantly used, especially by companies looking to make a profit. Here, we’re going to look at some of the ways you can better control the outcomes of the data you have online. 

Source – CC0 License


Take aim at all of those marketing data aggregators

There are very few businesses online, especially amongst the bigger businesses out there, that don’t do some sort of customer data collection. Technically, a customer does have to consent to have their data shared, sold, or otherwise used by companies and those they pass it on to. A lot of them have these consent forms when you sign up with them or complete a purchase, but they’re often very easy to miss. If you want to start protecting your personal data a little more closely, some have developed tools to help you track down which sites and bodies keep your data so that you can opt out of them.


Protect your identity online

Of course, there are plenty of websites and tools that will track certain aspects of your data, such as your location and device, without any need for your consent. If you want to stay as safe as possible, then the best way to do it is by adopting a different digital identity and footprint. For instance, a VPN service can be a huge help for those looking for additional security and privacy. These VPNs use other devices as online rallying points, adding a filter between you and the online sites and tools that you use, and also have uses well beyond security, such as helping you access content that might otherwise be inaccessible from your IP.


Are you feeding AI tools?

AI is the topic that a lot of people have on their minds lately, especially as it’s starting to make its appearance in the labor and arts that were previously thought to require human intelligence and creativity, such as art and writing. While things like AI chatbots are becoming more and more sophisticated, and showing a lot of potential use, there are also concerns about where these AI tools are getting the data that they use for their output. For AI chatbots used to upgrade ecommerce sites, it’s understood that most of the data come directly from the people that they’re talking to, but with AI art generators, these datasets usually come from the art of creators who didn’t consent and very often have real objections. If you’re worried about your art or content being fed to AI bots, you often have to find and opt out of them.


Be mindful of what you download and what permissions you offer

When you download any app or piece of software, there is usually at least one policy that they “require” you to read before you’re able to finish downloading or start using the tool that you’re trying to use. These policies, while long, are important. However, no-one really expects every user to read every word, but you can use the search function (such as using Ctrl + F on PC) to open a search box and type in the words “collect,” “sale,” and “sell” to see if they make any reference to selling your data on. Then, you can at least be informed as to whether that app is going to spread your data.


Beware of scams

It’s not just companies that will make use of your data, and not everyone looking to use it will ask for your consent. There are plenty of scammers who collect data, as well, whether to sell on or to try and use them for their own nefarious means. Be mindful of the latest scams that try to trick people into sharing data more widely, especially phishing scams. One that is especially prevalent lately targets those looking for remote work, encouraging them to share data through applications, so be mindful to take a closer look at any individual or organization asking for your data to work out if they are legit.


With the tips above, hopefully, you can take a little more control over your data online and how it’s used. Again, total control is never possible, but you can claw back some autonomy at the very least.


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