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Privacy vs. Privilege

So, you want to block ads and pop-ups? That’s fine – because we’ve identified ads and pop-ups as gateways for hackers to penetrate your systems and networks. But even the safe ads and pop-ups can be annoying and an intrusion on your privacy. To retaliate against your blocking ads and pop-ups, content providers can deny you the privilege of viewing their content unless you consent to allow ads and pop-ups. You can manage your privacy to some extent.

Privacy management – if you’ve been following us for years and years – is as much an issue of protection as it is a principle. Google and Facebook are the most prominent villains in sharing your info by selling it to “partners.” You can define those partners as anyone willing to pay them for access to your information. Apple is less of a villain in our minds. They have instituted some privacy controls for their App Store, allowing you to restrict information sharing through their apps. The jury is still out on how effective they will be, but Apple can pressure their developers to make sharing options are available when you install an app. That’s because they keep a tighter rein on their store.

We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but the issues of privacy revolve around convenience and what we’re willing to pay for. Generally speaking, if you don’t want to pay to access certain websites or use certain services, you give up privacy. That’s because somebody has to pay for it: either you or someone who wants to sell you something.

Content providers understand this very well, and some of them will not allow you access to their content unless you pay for it and/or allow them to show you ads. This is your dilemma: protect your privacy or give up something for the privilege of accessing their content. You can manage how you want to deal with each website you visit, but nobody makes it easy.

The steps you’ll need to take will depend on your computer or mobile device. Then, you’ll need to consider your browser. We’ll focus on Windows-based computers and Apple’s iOS-based phones and tablets because that’s what most of our clients use.

Let’s start with iPhones and iPads because we’re using apps on those devices – even in the comfort of your own homes. In June, we covered the steps Apple was taking with iOS 14.5 to help you cover your tracks when using apps. You can review them here but be aware you may need to be specific, or you’ll be making some tradeoffs you won’t like. For example, you can protect your privacy by turning off location services for an app, but if you’re on the road and looking for a gas station or restaurant, you obviously need to have location services turned on. Those who want to make money from you simply hope you’ll forget to turn off location services.

You can look at each app on your phone or tablet and decide whether to allow location services only when you use a specific app or if you want them on at all times. Your choices will depend on a host of personal factors, but the more you’re tracked, the more likely it is that someone is selling your information to somebody – and you have little or no way of knowing who’s buying your info or why they want it.

To manage your privacy on your Windows-based PC, you need to be online and signed into your Google account. If you use Google Chrome as your default browser or use any Google services, such as Gmail, you already should have created a Google account. You can usually access it from any Google web page by clicking an icon in the upper righthand corner of your browser screen. When you get access, click on the bar that says, “Manage your Google Account.” It will open a new window to an account management home page. You’ll have some options there, and there will be a menu on the left side of the page to help you find more settings and choices for your account.

While Google can guide you through your privacy settings, you might feel like you’re asking the fox for advice on guarding your henhouse. You might want to look at a couple of third-party articles, one from Consumer Reports and one from PC Magazine to give you an overview of your available choices and the ramifications of your choices. All browsers, such as Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome to name three, have additional settings options. You can access them from the upper right corner of the browser by looking for three bars or three dots arranged either vertically or horizontally.

The choices can be overwhelming, and you may want to look at specific settings based on how many people use devices under your control. We can help you decide what settings may work best for you or help you finetune settings based on your needs. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for help. It might also be a good time to let us conduct a security assessment of your technology system to make sure your protections are all up to date.