Usually you hear the phrase “too much information,” or TMI, in a funny context. Like when you reveal a little too much about a personal situation, or something people simply are not interested in.
When it comes to the Internet, however, providing TMI is no laughing matter. When you over-share, you compromise your privacy and even leave your identity, reputation, and property vulnerable to criminals. Practically every click on the Internet reveals information about you that third parties can use to their advantage. That’s why the American Library Association sponsors Choose Privacy Week yearly to help people think more critically about the information they reveal online.
Getting TMI from you is the name of the game
Information is currency for Internet-based businesses and websites, so many sites go to great lengths to learn more about you. Like asking for information via surveys or contests. Placing cookies that track your online habits. And analyzing where you spend time online and what you search.
While you may not mind if your favorite brands or websites have your information, don’t forget that identity thieves are also hard at work and that data breaches, which can expose lots of exploitable information about you and your habits, are becoming all too common.
Tips for protecting your privacy in every area of your life
Admittedly, between smartphones, and computers at work and home you are leaving a lot of digital footprints. But there are some relatively simple things you can do to avoid sharing TMI online and better protect you and your family’s privacy. Here are a few.
• Do use separate email accounts for social media and banking or financial sites to limit the potential reach of hackers.
• Do make sure sites are secure and trusted before making a purchase or adding identifying information.
• Don’t sign up for rewards programs or complete surveys without carefully considering what you are giving away.
• Don’t share personal details like your birthday, address, and vacation plans.
• Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
• Be sure to adjust privacy settings to your comfort level (most sites allow you to choose what others can see).
• Don’t open personal accounts on work computers.
• Don’t use the same passwords for work and personal sites.
• Do share only as much information as is absolutely necessary on networking or job sites.
• Do make sure your child understands to never share identifying information online.
• Do learn about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and how you can opt in or out of consent for sharing personal information.
If you suspect you're a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity, check with your insurance company, financial institution, or employee benefits provider. Many companies offer LifeStages® Identity Management Services from CyberScout for low or no cost. To learn more, call 1-888-682-5911.