Online privacy, or security has become an every growing problem. I think most freelance writers are at least vaguely aware of that. It’s hard to both understand the depth of the problem and to know exactly what to do to protect ourselves.
My goal here is to help you take online privacy seriously – for yourself. Writers probably spend more time on the computer than anyone but programmers, gamers and hackers. Just that presence online a lot makes us more vulnerable than we might think.While we’ve learned to use these machines well, we’re not versed, by and large, in their inner workings.
There’s some balance between paranoia and ignoring the whole issue completely. I find myself swinging in multiple directions, from ignoring it entirely to wanting to buy a hardened computer – I’m educating myself so I can make better decisions. Which is what this article is about.
Here are some resources you can use to get current on the issues and make some decisions about what you want to do.
But first a caveat. I am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert on security. I did date one back in the day and it might have been that rather strange and brief relationship that has let me to be a bit more aware of some of the problems than many – or not.
Types of scams
The FTC has an amazing list of online scams called Scam Alert. Take a look – it’s long enough so you could decide to read one a day or one a week and be way ahead.
It seems to me the phishing scams I get come in droves. I’ve memorized some places to report them – firstname.lastname@example.org being one example. This article helps: Phishing Scams Even Fool Tech Nerds-Here’s How to Avoid Them
Online privacy and scams are often closely linked, but online privacy is more than avoiding scams in my opinion. It’s also about keeping information I want private private.
Wired gave us an overview in The Biggest Security Threats Coming in 2017. It’s worth a read. The same source has also written often about how we as citizens can hold our government accountable in articles like Wanna Protect Your Online Privacy? Open a Tab and Make Some Noise. The genie is at least partially out of the bottle on this, but fear of losing votes still motivates most of our politicians. Maybe not as much as losing corporate sponsorship… but I digress.
The Harvard Business Review (yeah, I do get around a bit don’t I) has a an article called Why We’re So Hypocritical About Online Privacy? I don’t think I would have used the word hypocritical but I found it fascinating to read. It’s possible just recognizing our tendencies may help a bit in our own behavior.
And if you’re a journalist…
Journalists, particularly if they’re investigating anything, are even more vulnerable. Good reporters need to be online to discover as quickly as possible what’s going on on their beat. Everything from local development projects to weapons of mass destruction, to politician corruption means the journalists investigating real issues need to be aware of current online privacy issues and take more precautions than most others are willing, or need to take.
vpnMentor has published an Online Privacy Guide for Journalists 2017. It’s not an easy read, although they do make the information pretty accessible if you’re willing to work at it just a bit. It’s also scary as heck, in the sense that it pulls no punches at all about what’s at issue. Fortunately it provides some solutions and again, enough information you can use to decide what, if any, action you want to take. They also provide some solid reviews of vpns – virtual private networks – which may be a need you have that you’re not even aware of. I’m certainly considering it.
What do you think? Is this new information for you? Will you take additional action to protect your online privacy?
Write well and often,