It’s a big amazing world online, where you can find information on just about any topic, interest, or subject. You can even find out information on your friends, family, and co-workers. By the same token, they can do the same to YOU.

Scared yet? You should be.

In our ever-changing world, the concept of privacy is being constantly whittled away at. Okay, in some cases there has been good that has come from it: some cruel jerk bragging about abusing an animal gets caught and the animal saved, or some dumb criminal posts a selfie in front of the store he just robbed and is promptly arrested.

But the problem is, everyday people who aren’t breaking the law are vulnerable to having their data compromised, even if they have never posted a single thing on a single social media site! With that in mind, here are some of the tough questions we need to ask in regards to our data privacy.

Who Sees Our Data?

You sign up for a Jelly Of The Month Club, and give the website your personal information. In a few months, you’re getting spam from the Jelly Fetishist Alliance, inviting you to join them in doing NSFW things with fruit preserves. Who on Earth gave them that information?

This is a big concern; people should be able to feel safe in giving their information to one site without it being ferreted off to another, less reputable website.

What Measures Are Taken To Keep Data Safe?

According to the article “Easing Patient Apprehension About Privacy Issues”, one out of every five patients withhold personal information from their doctors because of fears of a data breach. Although it’s certainly risky to hold back on something that may be crucial for a doctor to come up with an accurate diagnosis, it’s hard to blame those people. After all, the news is full of stories of hackers getting into private systems and stealing information, or posting intimate details online.

For some more insights into the whole matter of data safety, check out “Big Data Security Issues” and get better informed.

How Easy Is It To Find Out Stuff About Me?

Every once in a while, you can freak yourself out simply by entering your name on a Google search. It’s amazing how much of your information is out there, ready to be seen by anyone who has half a mind to look you up. It becomes even easier if you have a well-fleshed out personal profile on a social media site like Facebook.

Who Benefits From My Data?

There are companies out there that gather personal consumer information and sell it to other companies. Furthermore, there are some businesses that, if you give them your information, will use it as currency with other businesses, swapping information such as email addresses, if not outright buying that data.

It’s a legitimate concern to wonder who’s making a profit off your private information.

How Can I Keep My Data Safe, And Privacy Intact?

By now, if you’re still reading this and not deactivating every electronic device in your house and canceling all of your online memberships, you may wonder what you can do about this issue. Well, there’s good news: there are definitely a few steps you can take.

First of all, if you’re on a social media site like Facebook or Google Plus, avoid WTMI, which stands for Way Too Much Information. Beware of uploading revealing pictures, including too many intimate details about you and your family, or other personal matters.

Secondly, read up on the terms and conditions of any site that you intend on giving personal information to. Yes, it’s an exercise in boredom and will probably make for a killer soporific, but it’s worth it. It’s only by educating yourself on what a business legally can or can’t do with your information can you get any idea of who will see your stuff.

Third, make sure that your own passwords and other user information are kept safe and away from prying eyes. Change your passwords once a month, at the very least, and make sure that they aren’t easy to guess.

Finally, when you’re on a site and you’re filling out some online form and you see data fields that are indicated as optional, decline that option. Only give out the information that’s mandatory. For that matter, if a business asks you for information that is clearly unrelated to the goods or services that you’re interested in, then consider taking your business elsewhere.

Your private data is valuable. Keep it safe, and exercise common sense.