Why Your Name, Address, Credit Cards, and Browsing History Are Not Safe.

Why Your Name, Address, Credit Cards, and Browsing History Are Not Safe.

Caiden Leyva, Staff Writer

Every time you open your phone, dozens of companies and governments worldwide have the opportunity to steal your personal information without your knowledge. Your address, credit card number, search history, social security number, and other important information are up for grabs. Those companies proceed to sell your information to other companies, groups, or even individuals, without your consent.

When corporations or individuals buy your stolen information, it can lead to terrible consequences. For less than $50, an individual can buy your address, full legal name, and several other things that make it easy to stalk and/or murder you. A person can also buy your credit card information and commit credit fraud. If there is a reason for data to be bought, then it has been for that purpose countless times.

Internet cookies have been a part of life ever since 1994. Cookies are files which store information for future use; a site with cookies may remember a shopping list for future purchases, or a credit card number for a faster checkout. Cookies may also store your address, email, or IP address. These cookies can be sold and accessed by multiple sites, allowing your data to move to places on the internet that you may not be going. Malicious users and websites then collect this data for nefarious purposes. Disabling cookies should always be the go-to option.

As of April 25, 2021, both iOS and Android have had the option to disable cross app trackers. Trackers allow apps to track what apps are open and even take information from a newly opened, unrelated application. For example, Instagram may not know someone’s real email address, but if they open Clash of Clans with trackers on, then Instagram would retrieve the email address they use for CoC. It is recommended that users disable trackers whenever they are able to in order to limit pilferage of personal information.

Facebook (the parent corporation of Instagram and Whatsapp, also known as Meta) is the biggest seller of personal information worldwide. While disabling trackers does severely limit what data they can steal, social media companies are still able to sell anyone’s face, location data, and spending habits. Deleting social media is a clear solution to combat this, however that action may not be attainable for most people. Even if people won’t delete the social media, there are still a few things users can do to prevent data theft, such as disabling tracking, not allowing the app to have access to the microphone and camera, and blocking the app’s location services.

Seekers of naughty media should know that Internet Service Providers (ISPs, such as CenturyLink, AT&T, and Comcast) know everything searched and then sell said search history to buyers. Say a person searches for linens on Amazon. Their ISP and other trackers will take note of this and sell the note of the linen search; other sites will then begin to recommend similar bedding items. This holds true for everything that is searched, even in incognito mode. (Note: it may be possible to opt-out of ISP-level data sharing; contact your account holder!)

No matter the website, data can always be stolen and sold. However, there are ways to protect user information, and by proxy be protected from governments, companies, and creeps worldwide. The first thing consumers should do is switch browsers to something noted for security. Google (Chrome) is not a good browser or search engine to use because it takes part in tracking, but a good (free) browser is Brave. Brave, which was named the most secure browser by Forbes (apart from Tor), takes several steps to ensure safety. Brave automatically blocks all cookies and trackers on the internet, so info on one page is unknown on the next. It also has a built -in adblock, has auto HTTPS (encrypted searching), and blocks auto-running scripts (viruses).

Tor (The Onion Router, called the Onion browser on iOS) is the most secure browser in the world, but is not recommended for everyday use because the service is known to be rather slow. Tor redirects searches through another server before hitting the open internet, giving users the same IP as everyone else using the browser. Using Tor allows access to .onion links, which are literally the “Dark Web.” While using Tor, it is critical that clients do not log into anything using personal login info. That gives someone’s anonymous figure a name tag, differentiating them and making it easier for websites to identify the user.


Getting a virtual private network (VPN) is also an advisable thing to do. An anonymous, privacy centered interviewee says “A VPN uses security protocols to encrypt your data through your ISP and across the internet until it reaches a VPN server, where it then hits the open internet. You can bypass ISP traffic monitoring because your data is essentially going through a secret tunnel to get to the server.” Things like piracy and “illegal” streaming are only safe to do with VPNs. Hiding your IP address almost makes people anonymous on the internet, but logging in to any website while using a VPN then info is less safe because the IP from the VPN is connected to the email address being used.

Lastly, one of the best ways to avoid having personal information stolen is to not put it on the internet. Avoiding putting an address and real name does not allow companies to have said information at all. While this may be easier said than done, employing an alias with a VPN and a secure browser almost eliminates any chance of data being traced back to users (but can still be collected and sold).

The internet is a wonderful place; information is free and widespread, entertainment is easier to come by than ever before, and shopping in person is becoming a thing of the past. However, your personal information such as your full name, address, credit card number, email address, browsing history, and many other things are being stolen and legally being sold to whoever is willing to pay its (low) price. Using a VPN, having a safe browser, and employing an alias can all save you from your livelihood being treated as a product.