What data privacy is and why dads should be aware of it? Tips and tricks from privacy expert Gaël Duval.
Data privacy is one of those things that most people know they need to get better at, but convenience means they blindly accept cookies, terms and conditions and default privacy settings, often with little thought.
While seemingly innocuous, being lax about data privacy can affect many areas of yours and your child’s life. For one, tracking your behaviour online helps companies to deliver you more tailored, relevant content. While this sounds useful and positive, it’s the reason why you find yourself spending more time online than you’d like and impulse buying things you had no intention of doing.
Also, children are curious and often drawn in by the latest craze. While some are harmless, they can easily be exposed to dangerous challenges and trigger content like eating disorders, if that’s the type of content they have viewed and interacted with in the past. I could talk for hours about this, but as a short introduction, this is why it’s important for dads to take better charge of online privacy.
The only way to achieve complete online privacy is by switching from tracker enabled services including search engines, web browsers and even email hosts (ever noticed those ads you get in Gmail?), to tracker-free ones and ditching social media entirely.
I know this can seem daunting for some and many are reluctant to go ‘cold turkey’, particularly those who have to use Google’s cloud services for work, for example, so I’ve included some tips below that compromise on convenience yet help to improve your family’s privacy and get you thinking more consciously about what data you’re sharing with companies.
Android phones using a Google account will have most tracking turned on. Head to settings > data and privacy (Google account) where you will see history settings. This shows what Google services are tracking your location and data. Here you can review the settings and revoke permissions. You may be surprised just how many access Google has without you realising!
On Apple devices follow this guide.
Changing settings for your Apple/Google account will only change how those apps access your device. You will also need to review the privacy settings of the apps your child uses. To do this you’ll need to login to the relevant accounts, head to settings and update them accordingly. This will differ by app. Try to keep devices as clutter-free as possible by uninstalling apps you no longer use.
Google’s Play Store only offers limited information about privacy settings and data sharing of individual apps. A privacy oriented app marketplace, such as App Lounge – which I work on with a team of open-source data privacy advocates at non-profit project eFoundation – can scour an app’s code in seconds and reveal exactly how many trackers and permissions an app asks for, and turns this into a an easy to understand formula known as privacy score. The higher the score the fewer trackers and surveillance.
You can use App Lounge as your primary app marketplace, or just use the privacy score to inform your decisions before downloading from Google Play or App Store.
Kids are curious and this crosses over into the digital world. If they’ve heard someone at school talking about something, they may be interested in researching it. Or perhaps you let them use your phone and you don’t want the things you search to show up for them while they’re using the phone. Such searches aren’t always for positive things, and although kids may do a quick search and leave it be, the way most search engines work is by using your previous search history to show you more related content and adverts so you spend more time online.
If you just want a really easy out-of-the-box privacy focused solution for your child to play on, my company, Murena, has created an affordable smartphone that is ready to use. The Murena One runs on privacy-focused operating system /e/OS and gives you way more control of privacy than any Android or Apple phone.
There is lots of information available online about how surveillance works, who benefits from it and why it can be dangerous for mental health to have poor privacy settings (for both kids and adults!). I recommend doing some reading or even watching a documentary like The Social Dilemma.
Then discuss this with your child. The younger generation have grown up with the internet and so to them it’s often a ‘normal’ and even safe space. Helping them to understand how online tracking works and how their data is used is important to get them forming healthy habits from a young age.