Is Privacy Really Private?

The Department of Homeland Security Privacy Act Statement says a Privacy Policy

“provides protection to individuals by ensuring that personal information collected by Federal agencies is limited to that which is legally authorized and necessary and is maintained in a manner which precludes unwarranted intrusions upon individual privacy.” Source

That means, anytime a ‘company’ asks for your personal information (identification, financial, geographical, etc), they are required to have a Privacy Policy that you can view; that specific Privacy Policy will inform the registrant of how their information will be collected, used, and protected. Information collected will depend on who is collecting it and what it is for (ex: bank and personal information for credit cards or loans; name and email for an account on a website).

Have you ever wondered why the ads you see online coincide with something you searched, sent in a message, or recently clicked on?

The secret is all in the algorithms. They look at your website visits and searches to collect data on your movements, and using the data they collect over time, they can predict your movements and what you might search for, or be interested in next. The way websites make this possible is through cookies (text files in your computer) and your IP address (like a house address, only for your computer). For example: the popular store Target uses the items store-goers buy to predict what they will buy the next time they are shopping. Their databases then create coupons specific for that person and send them to him/her, along with a few other ‘random’ items that coordinate with the data collected on them. It all starts with a search, a mouse click, a swipe of the card, or entering your email address: your personal database is collecting your habits and interests. By simply logging into your account on the various social media platforms, data is collected on you based on what your profile shows about you – like pictures you have shared. Both forms of data collection will then assist the advertisers to personalize what ads you see the next time you log into your account and search various websites. 

What can I do to prevent data from being collected on me?

Without COMPLETELY unplugging yourself from using the internet, there are only a few things you can actually do to stop websites from collecting data on you. You will even notice that when you attempt to use certain sites, apps, or extensions on your browser, if you disagree with their terms (the things that pop up and only give you the options: ACCEPT or NO THANKS) you cannot use their site or extension at all. There is no choice of what they use, or collect, on you – it’s all or nothing. 

You can try using Ad Blockers, you can routinely clear your cookies, and you can change your IP address often. Another choice would be to use a few separate email addresses: one for business, one for blog/website subscriptions, and one for personal uses. An add-on exists for Firefox, you can change your Google Chrome settings, and you are also able to change your preferences in your Facebook account.

How to turn off these settings:

This site will help you answer questions you may have about turning off ads and changing your preferences. 

This link will turn off activity tracking, location, and recommendations that come from your activity on your Google account. 

Or follow these steps:



-Show Advanced Settings

-Content Settings

-Turn Off Cookies


-Download a Browser Plug-In called: Facebook Container


-open your Facebook page

-go to Settings

-go to Ads

-click on ‘ads based on my use of websites and apps

-choose setting

-select ‘off’

When you take this step through Facebook, you will not stop seeing ads, and other websites may still track your usage and market to you, but Facebook will be prohibited from collecting data on you and specifying ads based on your data. So you will either see random ads, or ads that actually peak your interest. Facebook is a platform that nearly all advertisers use to harvest information through, and simply changing these setting won’t guarantee those avenues are blocked from collecting information.

Each website you create a log in or profile with has a Privacy Policy; you are free to change settings within each separate website that you log onto. To change the preconceived Privacy Policy on each website, you must actively find the settings in your profile and change them to suit your preferences.

What should I do about ads and internet security?

A simple solution is to use the ‘Incognito’ option on your web browser. It will not collect data on you or your browsing history. Whether you prefer content directed at you to be relevant or irrelevant, it will show up on a regular internet browser no matter what you do. Inevitably, self-control must be exercised when seeing ads that peak your interest. Temptations are all around you to spend more, eat more, view more, say more, send more; but only you have ultimate control of your hands. It should be a constant matter of prayer that all users of online media will remember to use self-control and the golden rule; as compared to our society in which we are taught to look out for only ourselves, and do what is in our best interest only.  The breach of privacy and constantly changing policies of the companies controlling our online world, are clearly not working under the same Biblical principles in which we are taught. Thus, it is of even greater importance for us to use personal discretion when browsing, searching, and moving about online. 

Always remember some key rules: Any information that you post online, stays online forever.

Think twice about sharing your birthday, social security number, address, and email address. 

Yet to come in this series: 

-Online Social Graces: Do you have proper manners?

-How much sharing is too much?