When we hear the words anonymity, privacy, and security, many of us mistakenly think that they are all referring to the same thing. However, especially when we consider our online presence, each of these words holds a very different meaning and purpose.
Everyone should have a basic understanding of these concepts to protect their information. Some software manufacturers may promise security, but fall short in protecting privacy. And some may stress anonymity, but not be as vigilant about their security.
Knowing what each of these terms means allows you to choose the protections that are best for you when going online.
Anonymity refers to the ability to hide your identity. It simply means that no one you interact with online will know exactly who you are. Remaining anonymous can stop someone from knowing your real name and personally identifiable information, but it does not necessarily mean that no one can track your online activities.
Many people want to act anonymously when they share strong opinions online, or when they do something that could be controversial if connected to them. While this can be a good option at times, it can also be very limiting for anyone who wants to build relationships with people or companies.
Anonymity is very difficult to actually achieve online, but using privacy focused browsers, VPNs, and zero knowledge software are good places to start.
Online Security is a more definitive concept, as it refers to the ability to protect information, software, and hardware from external threats and leaks. When we make something secure, we take steps to encrypt information, harden, or purge a system of bad actors.
Think antivirus software and proactive monitoring of online interactions to prevent data breaches or hacks. Security can be a vital part of preserving privacy and anonymity, and should always be considered a core concept in online protection.
Before downloading software, using a new cell phone, buying new tech, or sharing anything online, make sure to check for security settings and features. Different things offer different types of protections, and taking the time to make the most of these can save you a headache in the long run.
Privacy, at its core, is to be free from unwanted intrusion, and completely in control of who knows what about you. Every text message you send, online chat you have, piece of personal information you share, and site you visit should remain no one’s business but yours.
Real privacy means that your personal information remains entirely in your control. If you don’t want to share something with a data broker, person online, or a company, you shouldn’t be forced to. Protecting your privacy also entails preventing others from forcibly gaining access to your information.
The best way to protect your privacy online is to make sure that you’re aligning your activities with companies and people who take measures to preserve your right to share information as you see fit. Check privacy policies, strengthen passwords, use VPNs and secure browsers, and share as little information as necessary when accessing the internet.
Privacy, anonymity, and security are all parts of a larger initiative designed to put you in complete control of your personal information.
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