We often share our personal details to grab a special offer or permit an app to access our messages and photos, which is common in this digital era. We know that online service providers, social media platforms, mobile apps, and digital devices are using personal data for various commercial gains.
While we know this, it is common to ignore the glaring red flags. Thus, we tend to get stuck using the same products, even though they might not be the best for our mental health.
The Possible Band Influence
A former data scientist at Facebook and a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, reveals that around 32% of teenage girls say that Instagram made them feel even worse about their bodies, damaging their self-esteem. Therefore, when we share our personal information, not only do we risk our privacy, but we may also harm our mental health.
We aren’t even fully conscious of the negative consequences of the online world invading every aspect of our lives. Elias Aboujaoude, clinical professor of psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine, notes that finding privacy is important when you are starting fresh after a setback.
However, finding such privacy becomes a challenge when you are under the spotlight due to your presence on social media and business houses mining and selling your data endlessly.
The Price You Pay for Convenience
There certainly are benefits that you get after you have shared personal data. Advertisers offer you stuff that you need. Sandra Wachter, associate professor at the University of Oxford Internet Institute, observes that we can’t quite avoid data collection altogether. We are aware that data collection is occurring all the time, but we aren’t aware of the risks involved. We share the data willingly, unaware of how we end up being products paying a very high price that we don’t realize.
Wachter further cautions us that while there are laws to oversee who can access your data, there are limited controls on what businesses get to do with it. Companies gather data about you that may appear harmless. However, online profiling works in mysterious ways. Thus, companies can find out details that you would like to keep to yourself. For instance, the digital world might know your race, gender, sexual orientation, political views, ethnicity, income, and more.
Research reveals that the practice of such discrimination in ads has made housing opportunities and job postings available to only those of a certain socioeconomic status, race, or gender. Advertisers have also gone to the extent of exploiting health issues. For instance, you might notice ads for therapists in your area if your recent Google searches explored different mental problems.
Therefore, when you feel unsure while accepting an app’s terms while downloading it, there are good reasons. The rising awareness about personal data violations often causes anxiety by causing a feeling of insecurity when we spot an ad targeted at us, violating our privacy. That said, there are specific steps we can take to protect our data and ensure good mental health. You don’t have to surrender meekly. Instead of going offline altogether, which is impractical, there are small steps you can take.
Change Your Privacy Settings
You should take the time to use the privacy features that your favorite platforms offer wisely. Make sure that you avoid features that are too invasive when downloading an update or when you are signing up for a website. Disable geolocation services when an app is not in use. To block email trackers, you should disable Gmail’s “always display external images” setting.
Minimize Your Digital Footprint
Make your posts less accessible as they are hard to remove. You should also seriously consider whether you need social media at all. It’s wise to have a protected account for your private content. Uninstall apps that you don’t need to use after reviewing all apps, programs, and add-ons regularly. Clear the cookies and cache on your browser often.
Install a VPN
A very effective way to avoid being a victim of discriminatory advertising and tracking is to hide what you do online. A Virtual Private Network ensures that all your data traveling between your device and the internet is encrypted. Hence, no one can see what you do online. A VPN also makes sure that your IP address is hidden, which prevents IP-based tracking. Thus, tools like Atlas VPN are one of the best ways to become more anonymous and give advertisers and other online entities less information.
It’s tough protecting your data from companies. Laws are being framed for data protection. Protecting our privacy is our right, and each one of us needs to be more conscious of it. The steps we’ve suggested go a long way in protecting you. Stay cautious about your online activities and minimize your tracking for more privacy and better mental health.