A Guide to Default Privacy Settings and How to Change Them

Security lock on computer.
Many popular websites have settings that can be deemed snoopy. Here’s how to ensure your private data remains safe on Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Data privacy has remained centerstage ever since the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal exploded earlier this year.

Millions of people who had been using the internet without a care in the world suddenly woke up to the reality that what they have been up to online in the privacy of their living and bedrooms and office cubicles is not private anymore.

Someone out there has been not only monitoring the sites you visited and the people you contacted but that someone might have even shared these details with other corporate entities for a price so that they can make their sales pitch to you based on your preferences gleaned from this personal data.

So, is there something you could do to protect yourself? Yes, and here are some tips on how you can change the default settings on some key sites and feel safer.

Default Settings: The Real Root of the Problem

You might be wondering why the default settings on your accounts are the way they are. The reason is that most sites, including Google, Facebook and Amazon, have certain settings already in place and a majority of visitors would immediately click “I Agree” to all the terms and conditions, which appear on fine print.

People do not have the time or the patience to read through the terms, and there lies the trouble. Some of these default settings, which you inadvertently subscribe to, only allow a site like Amazon to come up with the listings you had browsed earlier.

You will find Facebook letting the whole world know your entire list of friends, and sites like Google, if you are on an Android phone, come up with the details of the places you frequent so you can give your feedback.

And the worst part in this whole thing is that these companies keep touting the line that you can control your data and its privacy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You must change the default settings and ensure your privacy is protected; here’s how:

Changing the Default Privacy Settings on Facebook

1. On your Facebook page, click on the downward arrow to open the drop-down menu. Or go to https://www.facebook.com/settings.

2. Just above Logout, you will see the Settings option. Click on it.3. Here there is a long list of menu options starting with the General account settings. Choose the Privacy option, which has a lock icon on the side.4. There are several items here allowing you to set the level of privacy you desire.5. The first question here is who can see your posts:

  • If you don’t want anyone to see your posts, you can choose the last option, “Only me.”

  • The other option is “Only Friends.” This will make sure whatever you write on your profile will only be visible to friends who you have consented to be added to your circle in your Facebook account.

  • Note that the default setting says “Public,” which means everyone can see your post.

6. In the next section, there are a few options to limit who can be permitted by Facebook to access your information, send you friend requests or even link your profile to search engines. Note that the defaults in each of these options can potentially invite trouble, especially if you do not want to be disturbed with new notifications. Choose whichever option suits your interests.If you’re interested, check out our step-by-step guide on how to see what Facebook knows about you.

How to Change Privacy Settings in Google

1. To change the settings in your Google account, you will need to go to google.com to access the activity controls page and make the changes. Google will ask you to sign in to your account before making these changes.2. Google automatically tracks several activities made by users, thanks to the default settings. This includes activities such as the searches you make on YouTube, which is owned by Google. You can disable this setting in Activity Controls, under the Manage Your Google Activity option.3. By default, Google also tries to advertise products to you in the categories you search for. You can disable this setting in Ad Settings, which is under the Personal Info and Privacy menu.4. Similarly, you can turn off the location history at the appropriate place on the activity control page.5. You can block the ads appearing on the Google pages too if you don’t want them.

6. In each of the above cases, the starting point is the Activity Control page and the menu there is quite user-friendly and doesn’t pose any difficulty in doing what you wish to do.

How About Amazon?

Amazon, one of the most popular ecommerce sites in the U.S. and all over the world, has most of its customers leave a lot of personal information inside the Amazon site without realizing that it may be used to target them with an ocean of unwanted calls, emails and other forms of intrusion into their privacy.

If you are also using an IoT device, such as Echo, running on Amazon’s Alexa AI, your data is bound to be recorded and used by the company.

How to Change the Default Settings on Amazon

1. Amazon has a menu item under Your Account. Click on “Manage your content and devices.”2. Go ahead and make the personal choices you want in this menu according to your wishes.

3. You can, for example, stop Amazon from recording your browsing history and storing it.

4. You can also stop Alexa on your home speaker from accepting voice commands if you feel they may be misused by someone else or register your voice and tell Alexa to act only if your voice gives the command.

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