Most of us are guilty of telling the world personal information, such as our date of birth, or when and where we are traveling by posting vacation photos. This makes it much too easy for the bad guys.

Can you imagine giving strangers photos or personal information about your job, residence, financials or family — or telling a robber the best time to rob you? Stop imagining and let this be a wake-up call, because too many of us are enabling ID-theft criminals through social networking. Most of us are guilty of telling the world personal information, such as our date of birth, or when and where we are traveling by posting vacation photos, especially if those photos contain geographical information (geotagging).

This makes it much too easy for the bad guys, as this type of information enables ID-theft criminals to victimize us. For example, even something as innocuous as sharing a photo of your family in the park near your house could inadvertently lead a child predator to where your children live and play. Most of us are also guilty of accepting the “terms and conditions” or ignoring the “privacy settings” of social networks without reading and understanding the implications. I highly recommend that you and your family members read and understand the privacy settings of your favorite social-networking sites.

For example, as a LinkedIn member, I am guilty of not reading the terms and conditions. I was surprised when I read a May CNNMoney article titled “8 worst terms of service ever.” According to the article, “The company has permission to claim anything you share on the professional-networking service — even indirectly — and change it, share it or profit from it. … When asked about the clause, LinkedIn said it reserves those powers — but it doesn’t intend to use them.”

Sound scary? It’s not just LinkedIn. Every social-networking site has terms and conditions that might make you hesitate about which sites you choose to join and what types of personal or professional information you share. Criminals use a variety of sources, including social media, to steal our identities. While they may purchase, or hack, our Social Security number or credit-card information, they commonly look to social media for details such as our date of birth or address, as this type of information is commonly found there and can be used to open fraudulent accounts.

We need to be aware that posts, blogs, tweets and photo sharing create the equivalent of an electronic fingerprint — and that’s exactly what ID-theft criminals are looking for. We also need to be more careful about accepting professional connections and “friend” requests from individuals we do not know. While there is a temptation to connect professionally with someone that has a big title or to be friends with someone who knows everyone, the proliferation of fake LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts increases every day, so beware.

One of the purposes of fake accounts on social-networking sites is to gather data – our sensitive data. Fake profiles can help hackers and ID-theft criminals steal your information, such as e-mail addresses. To be clear, social networking is a good thing and allows us the opportunity to grow and maintain valued relationships. Just be aware of the risks.

Mark’s Most Important: Stop ignoring terms and conditions, read, understand and use privacy settings and be diligent about your social networking. Beware of fake accounts, unless you want to be a partner in your own identity theft.

Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., a national ID-theft and background-screening provider based in Phoenix. Reach him at markpribish@merchantsinfo.com.

This article was originally published on AZcentral.com and republished with the author’s permission.

Internet search engine and online powerhouse Google has come under fire in the past for consumers’ concerns about privacy. With the launch of wearable technology Google Glass, a number of new stories have surfaced about individual privacy, especially as Glass users can record you without you knowing it.

But a new wave of concern has come up about Google’s recent filings with the SEC. In forward looking statements, Google made reference to selling advertising on mobile device platforms, but wasn’t very specific about what exactly the company considers to be a “mobile” device. When pressed for details, Google spokesmen essentially listed random examples—not intending to make any statements that any of these products were in the works, of course—about a laundry list of items and appliances that impact our day-to-day lives. Like refrigerators.

Yes, refrigerators. Google officials listed typical things like smartwatches and Glass (capitalized here because that is the brand name of their futuristic wearable computer that wraps around the user’s face), but went on to suggest things like car dashboards, thermostats, and even refrigerators could someday be equipped with product advertisements.

The ads themselves, which pepper many of the pages online users see every day and are gathered and personalized based on internet activity from each user, may be a minor annoyance in the minds of most consumers. But there are actual considerations to take into account about these ads.

It’s important to understand that many of the ads that grace the side bars and headers of our favorite websites are based on collected data about us. In theory, that’s a good thing. If you were to begin researching new cars, for example, wouldn’t you want to know which of the cars you investigated was offering special financing or had been deeply discounted? Or if you’re in the market for a new dishwasher and looked up a particular brand, wouldn’t you want to know if a different brand was significantly cheaper?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always stop there. Tracking your online activity to suggest things you already show an interest in isn’t the only use of that technology. Your internet activity is being monitored for more than just consumerism, and in the wrong hands, hackers can follow that information and use it to their advantage. Researching new cars and costly home appliances can tell a hacker that you have good credit and money to spend, making you an ideal target for identity theft.

In the case of Google’s ad placement, however, what we’re really being told is that Google has long-range plans for investigating our lives even more thoroughly than they already do. Sure, an ad for salad dressing appearing on the touch screen display of our refrigerators (screens which are already a reality) may seem like a helpful benefit in your kitchen, but what information did Google gather on you in order to discover that you are in the market for salad dressing? And when does this level of investigation become an invasion of privacy?

Even greater concerns are being levied at Google and other online social giants like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, for the very fact that gathering this data can lead to storehouses of knowledge on individual citizens, data that can be subpoenaed by the government. While this type of information gathering is considered “business as usual” by online entities who rely on advertising dollars to stay in business, you can ensure some level of privacy by carefully guarding the information you share about yourself on the internet.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.

This is something you used to be able to tell your nosy mom or an email-snooping significant other.  Oh, how times have changed! Now, unless you have Mark Zuckerberg’s personal cell in your contact list, (If you do, can you pass it along? We have some questions for him.) you aren’t going to be able to tell those with prying eyes to take a hike. Privacy has been called dead, or at least dying, and it is something that we all really need to think and have open conversations about.

Lucky for you, the ITRC is hosting our monthly #IDTheftChat in June on privacy! We will be discussing the latest trends, answering consumer questions and sharing resources to help you protect your privacy.  Joining us will be Meghan Land from Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Hayley Kaplan from What is Privacy and Security Reporter Mathew Schwartz. The Chat will take place at 11:00am PST on June 5th.

The questions that we will be basing the discussion around are:

Q1: Are you willing to give up privacy for convenience? How much and why?

Q2: Who do you think is responsible for protecting your privacy online?

Q3: Do you consider the privacy implications of your online activity?

Q4: What measures do you take to protect your privacy online?

Q5: Do you associate identity theft with privacy issues? Why or why not?

Q6: What should people do if they feel their privacy has been invaded online?

Q7: What are your favorite resources (apps, etc.) that help you protect your privacy online?

Q8: How do you think privacy policies for websites could be improved? Is this important?

Q9: Have you ever had your online privacy invaded? What happened?

Q10: What do you think your private information is worth? Do you know who is buying it?

This month’s event should help produce great collaborative thought and perhaps even some unique and novel solutions to protecting your privacy. In order to participate, users should follow the hashtag #IDTheftChat . Those who would like to participate can RSVP via online invitation.  Anyone is welcome and we hope that we will see consumers, businesses and organizations alike!

Participants may find it helpful to participate through the #IDTheftChat Twub which can be found at http://twubs.com/IDTheftChat.  Anyone who has questions should contact ITRC’s Media Manager at nikki@idtheftcenter.org. We hope you will join the conversation and bring your friends!

Social media has undoubtedly changed the way we think about privacy. With the ability to share personal data and updates with thousands of people at a time, often with the touch of a few buttons, today’s computer users may have grown a little too accustomed to keeping the entire world in the know about their personal lives.

A new feature from Facebook speaks to the heart of that very dilemma, and it has users fairly evenly divided over the pros and cons of the tool. Called Nearby Friends, this feature allows Facebook users to see which of their friends is actually in their close physical proximity by tracking those friends’ cell phones. This optional feature, meaning both you and the person you’re able to see have to have elected to turn on this tool, is intended only for account holders who are ages eighteen and up, and who have left the GPS settings enabled on their phones.

The team at Facebook envisions a world where knowing this kind of location detail about other people is a positive thing. Imagine a situation in which your car breaks down—or even better, your college-aged daughter’s car breaks down—and you can simply consult your smartphone to discover which one of your Facebook friends is close enough to lend a hand. Supporters of the feature have offered hypothetical scenarios in which an elderly loved one has wandered away from home, and (somehow) has remembered to bring her cell phone with her. By consulting Nearby Friends , her family members can see her location. Of course, these technologies are not always going to be used by those who have others best interests in mind.

Here is an example of such a scenario: a teenage girl who has fudged her age and has thousands of other teenage friends on Facebook, many of whom she connected with because they were connected to other people she knows on Facebook. She consults Nearby Friends and discovers that her good friend’s friend “Dylan” is only two blocks away from the mall where her parents dropped her off. They click on each other’s avatars and arrange to meet.

When she gets there, she discovers that “Dylan” is actually a 35-year-old man named Michael. You can imagine the danger here. That was a really harsh example, but it’s something that social media users must keep in mind.

The problem with Nearby Friends is that Facebook’s very policies operate under the assumption that everyone is honest on social media. Not only do you have to be at least thirteen to have an account, which you “prove” by checking a box, but you have to be at least eighteen years old to use Nearby Friends, which again, you only prove by telling Facebook when your birthday is. It’s also a violation of Facebook’s terms of service to send a friend request to someone whom you don’t know in real life, but does anyone listen? Friend requests happen frequently through friend-of-a-friend status, which Facebook supports by allowing users to “suggest” friends to each other. Finally, the only way Facebook knows someone violated its terms is if someone reports him, something that many people claim is “bad etiquette” in the world of social media.

We cannot blame Facebook for this. The tool, when used correctly, could be fun, and can actually have useful purposes. But if we look down the road and see potential problems from this feature, we really do have to blame ourselves and our online behaviors. Do your kids or grandkids have social media accounts, and are they old enough to know all of the potential dangers involved in using them? Do you have a tendency to “overshare” important personal details or photographs? Do you really know who your Facebook friends are?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with virtually meeting people through a computer screen, even if they’re strangers, as long as you safeguard your personally identifying information and know about the hazards of giving away too many details. But when we try to bridge the worlds of computer friendships and real-life, face-to-face interactions, we may be opening ourselves up for danger.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.

It’s funny how social media once seemed so frightening to many people. Post my private business online? Never! But with the widespread adoption of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, and even seemingly innocuous sites like the popular website storing site Pinterest, too many online users have become lax about keeping their personal information safe. So who’s the most guilty when it comes to posting inappropriate content online? The answer might surprise you. No, it’s not the partygoing college student or the rampant Spring Breaker…it’s your mom.

Yes, those social media users who are not part of the generation known as “digital natives” have become all too quick to share personal information—especially photographs—with their circles of friends without really understanding how information gets spread in social media.

While most people have hopefully heard about geo-tagging, or the coordinates that are embedded in a digital file when a photograph is taken with a smart phone or other mobile device, they may not realize that it’s not just the coordinates that can help a thief.

First of all, is your proud mom sharing too much information about you? For example, did your mom post on her wall how proud she is of her “baby” who got a new promotion at work? Well, congratulations, Senior Executive Vice President! Your mom just told a would-be burglar that you now have a lot more income.

How about oversharing of pictures of her grandkids? And with kids as beautiful as yours, who wouldn’t want to see their photos? I think I just said everything that needs to be said to make that scary. Unfortunately, your mom might not realize that it’s very easy to piece together basic information from someone based on the pictures she’s sharing. If she posts a photo from your son’s birthday, a predator can tell by the gifts in the background what your child’s interests are, leading him to figure out where you son practices soccer or where he goes roller skating. He also knows your son’s age, and if your mom posted those photos from her phone while at the party, he may even have your child’s actual birth date. If a pattern develops of when she took these pictures, such as different pictures being taken at the same time of day or in the same general area, a predator could even come to the conclusion that your mom babysits your son after school, for example, making her an easy victim as well.

One inadvertent mistake that many people make online is friending their mothers. No, don’t take that wrong, and don’t tell Mom I said that. What I meant was openly acknowledging that a particular social media user is your mother. If your mother openly posts that she is your mother, an identity thief may very well have your mother’s maiden name, especially if she uses it in her profile in order to be found more easily by her childhood friends. And now that he has your mother’s maiden name…you guessed it. He can easily supply the answer to the most commonly used security question, the one that’s tied to all of your financial accounts.

The most seemingly innocent posts can lead a criminal in the right direction. Everything from congratulating you on finishing your degree or sending well wishes while you’re in the Bahamas can lead to a case of stolen identity or stolen property. It’s important to help others understand the difference between safe sharing and oversharing, and make sure that you’re protected at all times.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.

It used to be the stuff of movies. The good guys (or the bad guys, considering who might have a need for the technology) would watch on monitors from a cramped office while computers scanned images of every passenger in the airport or shopper in the mall. Suddenly, with a series of lines on the screen and beeps of a computer, the agents could pinpoint one single person in a sea of countless thousands, all thanks to facial recognition software.

But that technology may not be limited to Hollywood blockbusters any more. A company in Hong Kong has not only developed what it feels is reliable software, it’s also marketing it to a very unlikely customer: shopping centers.

Facial recognition software is no longer just the realm of spy games and security. Rather than simply use the technology in retail stores to help thwart shoplifting or other crimes, NEC is marketing this software as a way to help foster sales and business by recognizing individual customers, connecting that recognition to their previous purchases, and then making resulting sales suggestions based on stored data about the customers. A shop worker no longer need remember a regular in the store, since even entering the store on one prior occasion can give the employees the information they need to push certain products on the customer.

An even more involved application of this technology is using facial recognition to make assumptions about the person’s mood, and use that knowledge to make product suggestions and push sales. Looking sad? You might be willing to spend a little more on some premium chocolates. Look like you just got good news? Maybe you’d like to celebrate with an expensive bottle of alcohol, or treat yourself to a new wardrobe to go with that promotion you just learned about.

While most consumers might have no problem with a computerized and personalized greeting when they walk into a store—“Hi Michelle! Welcome back to Stop-n-Shop!”—using this level of privacy to subversively lure customers into spending more money does leave a lot of people with a bad feeling. Even more worrisome is the information that would-be criminals can receive by hacking into a company’s servers. Not only does the thief have an accurate scan of what the customer looks like, he can access that customer’s spending habits and other personal data that the company chooses to store.

So what can you do to protect yourself? As new technology develops, savvy criminals follow right behind with new ways to commit crimes. Unfortunately, it can often take a little longer for legislation to prevent further problems. Short of wearing a disguise every time you shop in public, it seems as though your face may be “out there” for big data collection. Just remember to protect your identity as much as you can by keeping financial information safe, shredding documents that contain any identifying information, and safeguarding your passwords at all times.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.

Social media sites have redefined the way a lot of people use the internet. Where it used to be suspicious for people to know information about you, it’s now becoming so common that many of us are letting our guards down. Face it, thanks to social media, I can find out where you like to shop, what you ate for dinner last, what movie you saw last week, and more. It’s easy to find out where your kids go to school and what soccer teams they play on. Even better, some social media sites actually provide real-time information of where you are…physically.

The strange thing is that this is the information users are sharing knowingly and intentionally. This isn’t secret hidden data that a hacker can pull out of a computer, this is stuff that people purposely tell their social media contacts about.

And while willing use of social media is hardly a Big Brother situation, users need to understand that hackers are all too happy to grab as much personal information about you as they can, then use those puzzle pieces to complete the picture of your identity.

One important step begins even before you have your account. Give as little information as possible in order to establish the account, and keep a close lid on information that is too personal. Remember that your credit card company might want your mother’s maiden name as your security question, so don’t use that question on Facebook to establish your account. It’s understandable that people might want to find you by knowing what high school you went to, but do they really need to know your last three jobs, your church, your hometown, and your current profession?

Never click an email link from someone sent to you over social media unless you know the person well and you have verified that the link is something that person intentionally sent you. There are a number of scams in which your friend’s account gets hacked and the criminal sends the link to everyone in your friend’s contacts list. That link isn’t a cute video of a puppy playing with a garden hose, instead it’s a landing page that’s installing malware on your computer, snapping up your personal information.

Some of the worst behaviors online actually come from people who aren’t trying to overshare, but do so accidentally. Did you really just announce to the entire internet that you’re going on vacation to Hawaii next week and won’t be home for five days? Locally, popular sites like FourSquare let you “check in” at different places from your smartphone, sometimes to earn free discounts. Unfortunately, you just told would-be criminals that you’re standing in line to see the new action movie that just came out, but what they read was, “I have two hours and six minutes, plus driving time, until I’ll be back home.”

Even more frightening is the connections thieves can make between your posts. If you’ve posted pictures of your toddlers on your account, for example, those criminals also know you probably didn’t bring that toddler with you and he’s home with a babysitter. By checking in at that movie theater, they also know your hometown and where you go for entertainment.

Speaking of those pictures, it’s important to know that sharing photos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media sites can have a very serious consequence if you took them with your smartphone and uploaded them. Unless you have turned off the GPS setting in your phone, any pictures you take will be coded with the coordinates to where that picture was taken. Did you just post a picture of your family eating on the back deck, or your daughter’s school play? The coordinates to that picture were posted with the photo, telling criminals where your house or your child’s school is located. You couldn’t have done them a bigger favor than if you’d actually drawn a map.

Social media is a great tool, and can even just be a lot of fun. But it can’t be beneficial if it leads to criminal activity against you and your identity. Take precautions to protect your accounts and your safety, and when it doubt, don’t post it.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.

Following the news of the NSA and whistleblower Edward Snowden, companies and individuals alike have begun paying much closer attention to how privacy is regarded on the Internet. With reports of corporations reading their customers’ emails—as in the case of Microsoft’s recent efforts to track down the source of a software code leak—and concerns over faceless entities accessing consumers’ private information online, users are right to be a little more cautious about their Internet activity.

In the case of Microsoft, the company went a little further than just accessing someone’s account. Based on a tip that a former employee had stolen data and leaked it to a blogger, the group actually searched the employee’s emails on their servers and read entire conversations. The blogger ultimately published the information that had, in fact, been stolen by the former employee, giving Microsoft legal grounds for prosecution.

But what really raised eyebrows about the entire scenario wasn’t the theft of Microsoft’s proprietary information, but the fact that the software giant openly and blatantly admitted to reading its users’ emails. The former employee had used a Hotmail account, which is a Microsoft product, and according to Microsoft’s terms of service, this gave them permission to access, read, and ultimately use that person’s emails as evidence.

The public outcry has been interesting, to say the least. Everyone from consumer protection groups to legal experts have weighed in on the alleged violation of privacy. And while we could argue the “Big Brother” aspect to the situation all day long, ultimately…Microsoft is right. They have the legal power to do as they did, and it’s very surprising that so many people are upset about it; it means that a large portion of the online community doesn’t know what’s in those terms of service that we all blithely agree to.

While tedious and filled with legal jargon that could have even the most seasoned court officers nodding off, terms of service are very real legal protections that outline in writing what the consumers’ rights are, and what the corporations’ rights are. They can be quite surprising, as in the recent outrage over what should have been a positive and well-received offer for authors and writers.

Due to a pleasant exchange on the social media site Twitter between two authors, Amtrak took action and established a writer’s residency program. Basically taking these two up on their suggestion, Amtrak is currently taking applications from authors to give them free rail travel with the express purpose of letting them write their books while on the train. The down side? Those pesky terms of service.

Not only does the author’s private information become available through Amtrak’s TOS, the actual book that the author writes during the residency becomes Amtrak property. Whether that was intentional or simply a misspoken line in the TOS is not yet known, but a rush of authors flooded the Amtrak site to sign up and then found out after the fact that not only were they signing away the rights to the book they would presumably write, but that they had also just given permission for Amtrak to publish and use the sample writing that they submitted with their applications. Because they didn’t read the TOS before signing, many authors are crying foul and demanding their applications be deleted.

While privacy policies are an expected right, they’re not something that consumers can easily sign away. Regardless of what a company’s terms of service state, privacy is constitutionally protected; even if consumers agree to waive their right to privacy just by clicking “I Accept,” that does not make it legally so. But you will have a far easier time fighting a violation of your privacy by first knowing what’s in the agreement you just clicked.

In the case of Microsoft, while industry experts continue to speak out vehemently against the invasion of privacy, company vice president and general counsel John E. Frank said the practice is in full compliance with the law, specifically the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. However, Microsoft has already amended its practice for this type of situation to include several layers of oversight by teams of attorneys, agreeing to only take invasion action if the legal teams agree the situation warrants it.

FTC Commissioner Julie Brill urged Congress to pass new privacy laws while making a speech at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School on February 20, 2014. She specifically lobbied for Congress to pass three privacy laws related to data broker transparency, a comprehensive federal privacy law, and a federal data security law, reports The Hill.

The first privacy legislation she called for would require more transparency for information brokerage companies which track consumers and analyze their behavior to sell for marketing purposes. Data brokerage companies track what consumers do while browsing the web, while shopping in physical stores and 
even what kind of purchases they make. They do this to compile as much data as possible on a consumer and then use complex algorithms to make inferences about the consumer. Brill mentioned Target’s tracking practices in which the company would track female consumers’ purchases in such a way as to be able to determine whether they are pregnant and even what stage of pregnancy they were in at any given time.

The second piece of legislation Brill called for was a comprehensive “baseline privacy legislation for the commercial arena.” The U.S. privacy law framework is such that different laws apply to different types of data or people. This can make figuring out which law and requirements an organization needs to comply with complicated, but it can also leave holes where certain data does not have any specific privacy law dedicated to it. Brill wants a baseline privacy bill that would “close the gaps in consumer privacy protections and help level the playing field among businesses.”

Lastly, Brill insisted that the U.S. clearly needs data security legislation. This is a hot topic lately after very public data breaches (Target, Neiman Marcus) captured the attention of the U.S. bringing data security, privacy, and identity theft to the forefront of the general public’s mind. There are currently 46 state data breach notification laws (plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), which can create a confusing maze for breached entities to navigate when determining what is a breach, who must be notified, when must they be notified, what the notification must include and more. There are several bills pending in Congress which seek to create a federal data breach notification law that could possibly preempt the state data breach notification laws. This is a touchy subject for many states because there is a risk that federal preemption of state data breach notification laws will water down many states’ individual laws. We will monitor legislation introduced in Congress to see if any of these FTC requests come to fruition.

“FTC Calling for Privacy Legislation” was written by Sam Imandoust, Esq., CIPP, CIPA. He serves as a legal analyst for the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to the author and linking back to the original posting.

Most of us are aware these days that smart phone information isn’t as safe or as private as we might like.  Revelations about massive smartphone metadata being collected and stored by the federal government awoke many to the risk that anything they do on their smartphone could potentially be watched or monitored by a federal agency.

The risk of exposure of the very sensitive, personal information you store on your phone by no means begins or ends with government intrusiveness.  Seemingly, every day the public is made aware of a corporate entity (see Snapchat) suffering an improper exposure which may potentially lead to yourinformation falling into the wrong hands.  Insecure mobile apps are but one more way that your information can be compromised.

Smartphone PrivacyWe’ve all seen similar scenarios play out like this before – elected representatives fail to protect the people they’ve pledged to represent, then a private entity or entities produce potential solutions consumers want and need which are unable to be found elsewhere. There are now a few products on the market that seek to address the issue of smartphone privacy in a real and tangible way.

Several products put on the market by the company Silent Circle seek to directly address the problem of smartphone privacy.  For ten bucks a month, they will encrypt all voice, video, text and file communication sent to anyone who is also using Silent Circle Mobile. The option for a more expensive upgrade also exists which will allow a user to encrypt their end of a phone call to a mobile or landline, even if the person on the other end isn’t a subscriber.

For secure internet browsing, The Guardian Project has created a free app called Orweb Browser, which allows users to browse the web privately. It frees you from cookies, limits security threats, and prevents network providers from viewing your web history.  Additionally, there are several other programs available to restrict outside access to your phone. While none of these offer complete, impenetrable security, it is a great way to reduce your exposure to the prying eyes of your creepy Uncle Sam.  If you’re looking for something to add some level of protection without having to pay for and install additional software, consider utilizing the private browsing modes on Safari or Chrome browsers, both of which are available for either IOS or Android platforms.  While this won’t encrypt your information, it will prevent your browser from saving your data, browsing history, or cookies once you exit the browser.

The Guardian Project also has an app for secure text and instant messaging called Chat Secure.  This program unlike some others, doesn’t replace your existing texting or messaging application.  Instead, it allows you to send encrypted messages over a plethora of different chat services including Facebook Chat, Google Talk, Google Hangouts, Jabber and others.

If you have questions about the risks to your privacy your smartphone can create or would like more detailed information on the steps to take to protect yourself, please call the ITRC toll free at (888) 400-5530 or visit our website at www.idtheftcenter.org.

Protecting your Smartphone Privacy” was written by Matt Davis.  Matt is Director of Business Alliances at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to the author and linking back to the original posting.