Much has changed in the last few decades. The explosion of the internet, and the rapid proliferation of personal computers has led to an unprecedented storage of data. At their heart, computers are tools for the storage and manipulation of data. And their adoption has led to a host of benefits, in terms of convenience, entertainment, and quality of life. Computers have allowed a huge increase in human connectedness, have led to advances of science and medicine, and are a key part of modern life. But as is often the case when new technologies are adopted, understanding how to use them safely often lags behind.

While an incredible tool for the promotion of human flourishing, computers are also being used by criminals, marketers, governments, and others to attempt to steal, collect, and utilize your private information. From seemingly innocuous things such as which programs you use, to more intrusive data such as your browsing history, to potentially powerful or dangerous information such as your social security number or financial information, everything you do on a computer is potentially being observed. The first thing you should understand is that there is nothing you can do to be completely safe. However, this is a fact which is true of every part of life. From driving a car, to business, to interpersonal relationships, there is nothing in life which is risk free. Rather, we must weigh the benefits of an endeavor with potential risks, while also seeking to minimize risk.

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So, we established that while there are privacy risks when using computers and the internet. So assuming that we still enjoy using our computers, or need to use them for work, how do we minimize our risk? There are a few steps that you can take to help control and hide your digital footprint.

First, you should take steps to control your passwords and other such information. One of the most common ways that computers and accounts are compromised is through poor password security. This usually means one of three things. Either the user has employed easily guessable passwords, such as names or birthdays, the user has reused passwords from other sites, or the users secure password is not properly protected. For example, if the password is stored digitally without encryption, it could be a target for hackers. Alternatively, non-secure security questions for password recovery could lead to a breach. Celebrities have been hacked because they used easily searchable information such as birthdays or maiden names for their security questions.

This is only the beginning of securing your personal information, and I will cover more in the next article.