Privacy 101 – The Ultimate Guide

Everything they don’t tell you –

So, you live in the 21st century where searching the web, scrolling through apps, and talking to Siri are a part of our everyday life. But have you ever stopped to think about what information you are sharing with all those companies and what they do with it? 

Have you ever downloaded a new app and clicked “accept” on the privacy policy and continued with your day? Yes, me too. We all fall into that pond. However, I think even if you skipped through the 1,000 page document you should know what it consists of or at least the major points. 

That’s where this blog comes in. I’m going to clearly and simply breakdown your privacy. Well, at least I hope it will be clear and simple. 

The Basics –

First we need to learn some basics when trying to understand information and your privacy. 

  1. You signed up to lose privacy when you downloaded that app or searched the web. 
    • There is no stopping the companies seeing and sharing your information. Unless you go completely off the grid, but I doubt you want that. 
    • You can alter slightly how much information you provide depending on the platform.
  2. Companies obtain your information in 2 broad categories
    • First, the information you create and provide 
      • Typically, that’s your account information: name, age, email, phone, contacts, camera roll, address, depending on the specific application it can vary
    • Second, the information that is gathered by you using the service or application
      • This means your searches, history, videos you watch, purchases, and activity. (ps. this is not an exhaustive list, there’s more but this post would be 15,000 pages if I listed it all here…)

The Threats –

You may be asking me, “Ellington, why does it matter that these companies use my information?” Well, if you don’t care for your emotions being tracked, then that’s on you. But here are the most important threats you should be concerned about.

Information = money

You may have blinked and then ended up in a world that pays good money to know how fast you type, where you like to shop, and how much you pay for your internet. Information is valued and everybody wants it.

Hackers = bad

If your information is not secure, it can easily be used by hackers who abuse your information, steal your identity, and rack up money on your credit card. 

Safety = good

The less people know about you, the better. Or at least you should be in control of what kind of information people have access to in some way or another. 

The Solutions –

Ok, now that we know why you should be aware of your information online. Let’s talk about what are the most important security breaches to understand (in my humble opinion).

  1. Your location. 
    • Starting off with a banger, this is one of the most exploited pieces of information that companies track. It’s tracked when you look at the weather, when you use google maps, when you log onto google, when you scroll through instagram, when you send a Snapchat, when you take a picture, and so on. 
    • Solution: I’ve got one acronym for you: VPN, which stands for virtual private network. They take your computer’s IP address (the ID tag that companies use to remember who you are and track your online movements) and change it to be routed through the VPN’s service provider location. 
  2. “Typical” passwords
    • If you use the same username and password for every login on all your devices, you are holding a red flag above your head saying, “come hack me!” This is the easiest way for people to hack you and get into all of your accounts.
    • Solution: Use different passwords or use something called a password manager, which securely holds all of your passwords, and you only have to remember the master password. 
  3. Secure your searches
    • You are most vulnerable when you are searching the web. The amount of analytical data that is obtained is astronomical. You would never even know that it’s happening because they take it from right under your nose.
    • Solution: Download web blockers that will block ads, third parties, and keep harmful bugs off and away from your computer. 
  4. Additional security
    • Things that will generally improve the security of your information
      • Updating your operating systems right away
      • Use 2 factor authentication
      • Only go to websites that have an “s” in their HTTPS (that means the webpage is secure)
      • Use encryptions

Remember there is a difference between privacy and security. 

Privacy Policies –

Addressing Instagram’s social media privacy policy:

Things they collect:

  • Personal information: name, age, email, phone number, address, contacts 
  • Content: camera access, location of photo, [life events, religious views, political views]*
  • Network: people, accounts, hashtags, Facebook groups, pages you are connected to and how you interact with them across their products
  • Usage: types of viewed content, features used, actions, interactions, time, frequency and duration of your activities
  • Transactions: purchases or transactions, including payment information, such as your credit or debit card number, billing, shipping and contact details
  • Information: comments on photos of you, messages sent, sync contacts, uploads

Device information: 

  • Operating systems, hardware/software versions, battery levels, signal strength, available storage, browser type, app and file names and types, plugins
  • Operations and behaviors performed on device and mouse movements
  • Unique identifiers, device IDs, and other identifiers
  • Bluetooth signals, information about nearby Wi-Fi, access points, beacons, and cell towers
  • [Access to your GPS location, camera or photos]*
  • Name of mobile operator or ISP (internet service provider) time zone, mobile phone number, IP address, connection speed, information about devices near or on your network
  • Cookies stored on your device

All this information is shared with their partners and third party operators.

*this information you don’t necessarily have to share and can change in the settings*

Now, I’m not going to go through each and every privacy policy because that would honestly just waste your time which you should be using to start securing your devices and information. However, most of the other privacy policies are very similar in what information they are tracking and sharing with third party companies. I will provide the links to the most used application privacy policies below. Once you have secured your information, you can kill time by reading through them. 



Snapchat Inc.




Conclusion –

So, what have you learned?

Your privacy is different from your security. They are collecting more information than you think. Information is valuable. You can’t control everything these companies analyze about you, but you can do your best in protecting some of your information.

Thank you for reading and I hope you learned more about your information, security, and what actually happens to all your data when you go online.