By Randy Schultz
Most people don’t realize that free email accounts aren’t really free– you “pay” for your email with your privacy. If you use Gmail, Google scans every email looking for keywords that will help them send you ads for things they think you might buy. And some of the private info gleaned from your emails is sold to third parties.
It’s all perfectly legal. You gave companies like Google and Yahoo permission to read your emails the moment you hit the “Agree” button when you opened your account. And that’s just one example of how our online privacy is being eroded.
But savvy grandparents and parents are starting to fight back. They are choosing secure and private email accounts for themselves and their family members. And they are becoming more selective about sharing personal information.
Here are some tips that can help keep your private life—and the lives of your family members—more private.
1. Being careless with your account passwords is the easiest way to get hacked online. Avoid using “123456”, “password” or other easy-to-guess passwords. Include capital letters, numbers and special keys (#, $, %, etc.) to make your passwords tougher to crack.
2. Be careful what you share on Facebook and other social media sites. Facebook collects your information and shares it with advertisers and other companies.
3. Remember that the emails you send and receive using a free email account are scanned to learn details about your interests and preferences. To protect your personal info (and reduce your exposure to online advertising), use a secure email service such as www.SafeCloudNow.com.
4. Delete tracking cookies—the small pieces of code that websites use to store information about your online activities. Google “delete tracking cookies” for easy-to-follow instructions.
5. Be aware that using public WiFi (at coffee shops and other places) makes you more vulnerable to hacks and cybercriminals stealing your private information such as passwords and bank accounts. It’s better to conduct financial business at home.
Randy Schultz is a proud grandparent and co-founder of www.SafeCloudNow.com, which provides security-protected, easy-to-use email accounts for individuals and families. He writes frequently about technology for a non-tech audience.