Punit Bhatia

Tips To Protect Privacy From An Individual's Perspective

In a world of social media and mobile devices, it is paramount that you take steps to protect your privacy online. This article explains why protection of your privacy is essential and how you can do it through simple steps.

Before we get into why or how to protect your privacy online, you must realize that privacy protection has three dimensions. One is the State or government that provides laws that lay down rules for organizations to protect privacy when processing data about you. These laws also provide you with rights that can be exercised by you to check if the organizations are protecting your privacy and to ask questions about what personal information organizations have about you. Two, the organizations are bound under the privacy laws to protect your personal information. However, it is generally found that as the technology advances at a very high pace, laws tend to lag in addressing the challenges that every new technology brings. Consequently, there is a gap. This is where the third dimension has a very important part, i.e., the role of you as an individual in protecting privacy. So, as we explore the ways through which you as an individual can protect your privacy online, let us understand why do you need to protect your privacy?

Why do you need to protect privacy?

Privacy is a need that different individuals relate to in different ways. For some, it might not be a need but for some, it might be a very essential need. However, in the internet era where individuals leave a digital footprint for every action, privacy is starting to become a basic need. Kelly Finnerty in her conversation with Punit Bhatia on the FIT4PRIVACY podcast provided a very interesting explanation of the need to protect privacy. She drew a comparison of privacy needs with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. According to her, the hierarchy of privacy needs can be explained through the following needs:

Digital surveillance

The lowest part of privacy needs is the protection from the personalization of technology. For instance- Based on an individual’s online activities, different organizations follow them through personalized advertisements. Such surveillance can be exasperating and bothersome for individuals.

Identity theft

The digital revolution has resulted in sensitive personal information such as social security numbers, financial information, health information, etc. being available online on the internet. If not protected appropriately, this information can be stolen or misused by criminals.

Online stalking

Another aspect of privacy needs is the protection from online stalking. For example. if you do not control who has access to your social media feed or do not use appropriate privacy settings, someone can track and follow you. And, when this is done with mala fide intent, it can create challenges.

Overarching surveillance

The Government’s surveillance activities in order to protect the personal security of its citizens can also be overarching at times. The constant monitoring of individuals may have serious implications in the future if the data gets hacked or misused.

How can you protect your privacy?

The onus of protecting privacy on an individual is equally important. Organizations have started providing individuals with ways and means to control their personal data to some extent. Individuals can protect their data through simple measures that are stated below.

Use a Browser extension

Individuals should adopt web browser extensions such as Startpage which through its inbuilt features protect the privacy of individuals by blocking third-party trackers, cookies, etc.

Use a Password manager

No one wants to remember so many passwords. Using a password manager can help us in managing too many passwords. 

Use strong and complex passwords

Using strong and complex passwords, not sharing passwords with others, and relying on two-factor authentication can help a great deal. For example, a very simple option many of us can use is to add a password or code for access to our mobile devices such as phones or tablets.

Use Browser extensions

Individuals should adopt web browser extensions such as Startpage which through its inbuilt features protect the privacy of individuals by blocking third-party trackers, cookies, etc.

Change Router password

One of the basic wrongs that most individuals do is not change the default wifi username and passwords that are provided by the internet service provider. A simple action of changing the default username and password provided by your internet service provider can help you in protecting online privacy.

Use Private email

Yes, there are private emails that help protect privacy. It is recommended that individuals should have a private email for personal usage and a different mail for other business.

Use Private search engines

Yes, we do need a search engine. Many of us do not know but we as individuals can also rely on private search engines for the purpose of browsing and searching. For example, Startpage is one such search engine that offers private search.

Use Privacy Settings

You can control the tracking of web history, limit the access to location, and limit the permission to camera and photos by simply changing the privacy and security settings on your mobile device and social media sites/apps.

Be careful when using public wi-fi

We all use public wi-fi when traveling. This is when the risk of credit card data being hacked or sensitive information like passwords being stolen is highest. So, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your privacy online.
In addition to the above, you can use antivirus software to block malicious software proactively, regularly clear the browsing history of websites you visit, be cautious when sharing your credit card or payment details, and be vigilant on whether your internet connection is secure or not, etc.


Protecting your online privacy is essential in a digital world wherein social media and mobile devices are an integral part of our modern life. Risks to our personal data our real. And, simple choices like using strong passwords, two-factor authentication, antivirus software, exercising care when using public wi-fi, and a virtual private network (VPN) can go a long way in allowing you to protect your privacy online, 


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