Google and mobile operating systems top list of privacy concerns, says Kaspersky

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Using data gathered by its Privacy Checker website, Kaspersky has been able to pinpoint areas of concern for visitors seeking to improve their privacy posture.

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Using data gathered over nearly two years, Kaspersky said that its Privacy Checker website indicates that most visitors are concerned over mobile operating system privacy and the privacy of their data captured by Google.

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Kaspersky Privacy Checker is a free website where users can choose from three privacy levels (relaxed, medium or tight), four OSes (Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android), and a variety of web services (Instagram, Facebook, Google, etc.) in order to get customized steps for enabling privacy protection features. 

For example, I chose a medium privacy level on MacOS for Google services. Included in the information I get from Privacy Checker are steps to enable two-factor authentication, limit my Google profile visibility, prevent other people from viewing my search and web histories, check the security of my stored passwords and block third-party access to my data. 

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The data that Kaspersky used for its report on user privacy concerns is the data I fed into it to get my recommendations, and it gathered that data (anonymized to prevent user identification) from December 2019 to August 2021. The specific data included in the survey is for clicks in which a visitor opened the instructions for a particular service.

As mentioned above, mobile operating systems were a top concern for Privacy Checker users, with 21.2% visiting the page for that sort of advice. Of those, Android (11.1%), security rules for Android OS (7.3%) and WhatsApp settings on Android (5.9%) were the most frequently clicked items. 

Social networks were also included in the findings, and the most often read privacy instructions were for Facebook (15.7%), Instagram (9.9%) and TikTok (8.1%). “Considering its monthly active audience is four times smaller than Facebook’s, the numbers show that the privacy offered by TikTok is also of great concern to users,” Kaspersky said. 

Kaspersky only mentioned one messaging app by name in its report: WhatsApp, with 13.9% of visitors looking for ways to protect their privacy on the Facebook-owned platform. 

Data stored by online platforms and services can include a lot of sensitive data, like IP addresses, comments, photos, geotags, and even biometric data inferred from photos, said Kaspersky head of social media Sergey Malenkovich. 

“The visitor statistics in the Privacy Checker project show that users have begun to take an active interest in the privacy and security of their accounts and are looking to reduce their footprint where possible. The high share of TikTok-related requests indicates both interest in the platform itself and user concern about some of the brand’s data collection practices,” Malenkoivich said. 

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Privacy Checker is an excellent tool for anyone who has wondered how to protect themselves while using popular online services, but it doesn’t include every possible place that internet users may be at risk. For those cases, Kaspersky recommends several privacy protection strategies:

  • Don’t put sensitive data, like ID scans, etc. in a public cloud storage product. Either store them locally or in an encrypted archive.
  • Use private browsing to avoid internet trackers. 
  • Protect your main email address and phone number. Use email anonymizing services like Apple’s email privacy protection, or have a secondary address on hand for online shopping and other instances where personal details have to be shared. A Google Voice number or other free telephone number service can also be handy for similar situations.
  • Periodically review the permissions you’ve granted to mobile apps and browser extensions. Don’t grant permission for anything that seems unnecessary to the app’s function. 
  • Always use a device password, passcode or biometric security. 

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