What can we do
The biggest problem is that we have no say about how this data is used, says Cate.
“Who cares if I have it, if I can’t use it to harm you?” he says. “Let’s stop fighting over whether or not it is recorded, and instead ask what you can use it for.”
In Instant Checkmate’s FAQ site, it is made clear that information provided cannot be used for employment screening, determining scholarship qualifications, or screening tenants.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects you from non-Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) who may try to use your data for said activities. All of the sites mention this, one way or another, but the data is still out there.
On most of these sites, you can opt out. Typically, I found the opt-out in a tiny link for privacy on these sites.
Spokeo’s link was nearly invisible on the bottom of the home page, while Instant Checkmate’s link is in their FAQ. On Whitepages, you have to create an account to hide the page. If you can find yourself on Peoplefinder, you can choose to opt-out of that website as well.
Snapchats (and all other posts) that haunt you forever
You’ve heard it a million times, but here it is again, for good measure. Anything you share over the internet—be it Snapchat or on your private Facebook page—can be found and shared, even if you didn’t intend it to be.
Many on social media don’t take advantage of security options, particularly on Facebook. Even if you do, people will find a way to access your account. Cate says that some companies make current employees friend request potential employees to gage their online profile before being hired.
Most students are aware of this, Cate says, but act like they aren’t. Use those privacy settings. Maybe use a fun username instead of your actual name for social media networks that you wouldn’t use professionally.
But, Cate says, always keep the age-old rule in mind: Assume what you post will be shown to everyone you know and everyone you will ever meet.
Think Grandma or Professor Jenkins wants to see you partyin’ down at the Dunnkirk like that?
Don’t share your password with your best friend, for starters. But also, don’t use the same password for everything. We’re all guilty of it—Heartbleed proved that.
Cate suggests choosing a simple word—ideally in another language—and changing the first or last letter for each website or device that requires a password. Easy to remember, but each and every one different.
A million sad little iPhones were lost last year, Cate says. During flip phone’s reign, a loss was heartbreaking. Day-ruining. The loss of a hyper-connected smart phone, containing your bank account, your email, your photos, and all of your contacts, is dangerous.
Use the technology in your favor. Put a passcode on your phone and all devices that you carry around with you. Apple’s iOS 8 put intense encryption on all Apple devices to protect your data. Opt into it, whenever you can, Cate says.
Use confidentiality and protections whenever offered. It’s annoying to type in a four-digit code every time you want to look at your phone, but it’s better than the alternative.