Tech Talk

Tech Talk: 5.2.18

When I was listening to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, testify before Congress, it reminded me why I was asked to write Tech Talk. Town & Style wanted someone to explain complicated technology in an understandable way. That continues to be my goal: keep it simple. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on protecting your personal information in today’s digital world.

>> Always keep in mind that Facebook isn’t the only digital app or device that passes on information about you to advertisers. If you think leaving Facebook for Instagram is the answer, consider the fact that Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook. Your browser knows who you are and provides features to share your browser settings across devices. You’re prompted to create a username and sign in to collect your browsing behavior. Google provides businesses the ability to track user behavior on websites, which is used to improve your use of a website and make sure it’s easy to make a purchase, find the information you need or register for an event.

>> You need to decide what information you want protected, like social security number, driver’s license number, passport details, and credit card and bank account information. Don’t input that information on any site where you don’t understand the security. Make sure a website’s URL (web address) shows a green lock or the word ‘secure’ next to it. If one of those isn’t present, do not give out your personal information.

>> If people tracking your behavior is concerning, stop using location apps or letting your devices track your location. When you track your kids, that data is stored and aggregated. These behaviors are valuable, and companies analyze them to understand what you do. The same concerns were raised when credit and debit card companies started collecting details on your purchases. Your personal buying behavior is used to help advertisers target you. Apps are created every day that use your location to show you deals in the area. While we might love getting this information, it is only possible because of the personal location data we share.

Finally, be thoughtful about what you share. Don’t forward a chain message via Facebook Messenger. When an app asks you to login using your Facebook or Google account, decide if you really want to share your information with that app or company. Clicking on a quiz, game or predictor in Facebook will collect your information and use it in some way, so you might want to especially avoid these. Protecting your information has become trickier as technology advances. Always read the terms and conditions that you often quickly click ‘agree’ to without thinking of the implications. You never know when you have just agreed to let a company use your information that isn’t in your best interest.

Sheila Burkett is an information technology expert and CEO of Spry Digital, an interactive design agency delivering smart digital solutions. Follow Spry Digital on Twitter (@sprydigital), Facebook (, Instagram (@sprydigital) or LinkedIn (