Should Bloggers be More Concerned about Privacy?

What we’re sharing, how much we’re posting and why have all become widely discussed topics online. But rather than delving into whether the millenial social media obsession is ruining our lives (anyone else sick of the mainstream media pointing the finger at perfectly arranged plates of avocado brunch?), I wanted to chat about something a little different today. Inspired by a conversation I had recently about blog security, I’ve been thinking long and hard about the information I share online, particularly as a travel blogger.

When I realise how much detail about my life could be pieced together from the internet, it makes me want to delete every account I’ve ever opened and run off to a remote island where I could live out my days soaking up the sun without worrying if my outfit was good enough to share on Instagram or apologising when I forget to post any updates for a week. If you’re wondering what the hell I’m going on about, things will get a little serious now as I break this down…

Wander with Laura in Madeira

Think about how many accounts you have over various websites, online stores or social networks. Each of these sites will have a whole load of information stored about you, from address and payment information to items you’ve bought or searched for, and that’s barely scratching the surface. As well as details like this, social networks store an overwhelming amount of data – from your political affiliation to you favourite foods – based on your posts, likes, comments and clicks. Anybody who has used Facebook Ads will know the level of detail you can achieve in ad targeting and the recent Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data breach has revealed how access to this data could even potentially influence the results of an election. Facebook and Twitter now both have functions where you can see the data associated with your account and if you’re a nerd like me, you’ll definitely be interested in having a browse. I mean, have I really tweeted about Ryan Gosling that much?? He’s listed as one of my interests so I guess so…

Now, it’s time to get real. As bloggers, we should know the risks of putting our lives out there on the internet – there’s definitely a couple of YouTubers who’ve learned this the hard way when eagle-eyed fans figured out their address and turned up outside their house! – but do we consider our internal security enough too? For example, we might be careful never to mention our surname or keep our exact address and place of work a secret. But we’ll let everyone know when we’re jetting off on holiday and even keep our followers updated in real time using Instagram stories. We’ll log into open wifi networks wherever possible – even using Facebook as an ‘easy’ sign up option at times so that another source now has access to all that information about us. And it’s crucial not to underestimate the importance of security. My website was hacked at the end of last year and realising that the consequence of slightly lax blog security could have meant five years work being completely lost was devastating.

So, in a world that’s becoming more digital each year, what can we do to protect ourselves? After a short burst of considering deleting all social media AND this blog, I’ve had to rethink the strategy thanks to work. I’m pretty sure I’d be laughed out of any future Digital Marketing job interviews if I didn’t have a social media account to speak of. So, while I’m resigned to having more personal information out there than I’d like, here are a few changes that I’ll be making to keep my data a little more secure.

Array of photos including Caseapp phone cover

  • Restricting third party apps. You know, those analytics sites or fun quizzes that make you agree to giving them permission to access your social accounts? Go through your settings and be sure to deactivate any of these that you no longer use or feel comfortable with periodically.
  • Location services – off. One of the creepiest things I’ve ever found was that iPhone location setting that tracks exactly where you go and when. I don’t need anybody else knowing an exact schedule of my whereabouts, thanks (p.s. it’s embarrassing how much time I spend in supermarkets, ok?)
  • Staying wifi savvy on the move. If you use public wifi abroad (or hell, even a password protected hostel or restaurant network isn’t much better), a lot of your information is accessible to anybody with the right tools. Using a VPN can help with this – yep, they aren’t just for catching up on First Dates while you’re homesick in a saggy bunk bed – as they connect to a server elsewhere to mask your location and encrypt the data passing between you and the network.
  • Update your software. Those notifications aren’t just there to bug you: updates can fix bugs and patch security issues to help prevent any hackers exploiting potential loopholes. Yep, if you’re guilty of ignoring your WordPress updates, that’s a habit you’ll want to break ASAP. Same goes for uninstalling any plugins that are inactive or that haven’t been updated in a while.
  • Two factor authentication. Using a two factor authentication plugin is hugely important to help prevent brute force attacks on your blog. It’s as easy as downloading an app on your phone and installing the plugin on WordPress so if you don’t already have one, why the hell not?

Oh, and sorry to finish this completely off topic but how snazzy does my new phone case look? I’ve been searching for a decent one for SO LONG (I’m not kidding, literally a year) and when Caseapp sent me their banana leaf design, I fell in love. They’ve kindly offered a disount code to any of you who’d like to check out their incredibly affordable designs – this particular style would have cost me £19! – so use WANDERING20 for an amazing 20% off your order!

If you’ve found this post interesting or helpful, please do let me know in the comments. I don’t want to bore the crap out of you but genuinely, I feel like this topic doesn’t really get talked about in the blogging community and it’s so important that we’re all mindful of the potential issues that can arise from a lack of blog security. If you have any tips for staying keeping your data protected and blog secure, I’d love to know!

Laura x

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