Use a digital 'shoebox' instead of social media

Emma McGowan, 9 June 2021

Maintain your online privacy in the new old-fashioned way

We all do it. You baked a perfect cake? Post a photo on social media. Your dog is too cute for words? Post a photo on social media. You and your family hiked through a national park? Post a... you get it.

Yes, so much of life today is observed through the windows of social media apps. It’s not even new – we’re all used to it by now. In this age of cell phones, we’re snapping digital photos constantly, and a certain percentage of them inevitably end up paraded on social media for all the likes, hearts, and care emojis they can rack up.

Unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword. Social media does let us share our joys and sorrows with friends and family, no matter where they live. But it’s also in the data business. Namely, your data. They collect it, share it, and create a profile of you with it in order to divine the best way to get you to buy stuff. Actually, maybe it’s a triple-edged sword, because oversharing online is also a way that identity thieves and scammers get information about their future victims.

Being an open book on social media to your friends and family is not a bad thing, but being an open book to advertisers who are only interested in your wallet or scammers who only want to scam – that’s another story. As evidenced by Facebook’s recent data leak, the site already holds your phone number, full name, location, birthday, email address, and biographical information. But you’ll be surprised at how much data and metadata can be mined from your photos. 

The “data” is on display in the actual photo. Maybe it’s a place you like to frequent, products you like to buy, or hobbies you like to pursue. Data collectors and online scammers can absorb a lot simply through the images you post. Then deeper down, there’s the metadata, the automatic information logged in the photo file that lists the location the photo was taken, the date and time, and, in most cases, what device was used. 

To escape all that data mining, you can instead keep your always-growing library of photos in a secure place. Remember storing photos in shoeboxes? (Ah, the analog life.) Well, in the name of online privacy and protecting your data, you can build a “digital shoebox” for all your digital photos. 

There are two places you can create your digital shoebox: Either saved directly to your device (and then deleted from the cloud) or with a privacy-forward browser.

The digital shoebox on your computer is easy: Create a folder. Load photos into it. Delete photos from Apple Photos or Google Photos or whatever cloud service you use. Voila! You have a digital shoebox for your private photos! If you want to protect it even further, consider putting a password on the folder, turning your digital shoebox into a digital safe.

Another layer of security you might want to consider for the whole process is a private and secure browser. For example, Avast Secure Browser (ASB) is specifically designed to keep companies from tracking you. It also comes with added security layers and anti-phishing technology to keep you and your loved ones safe. (There are other browsers built with privacy in mind -- Mozilla makes a great one with FireFox and Apple’s Safari is pretty good too -- but thanks for letting us toot our own horn a little bit here.)

And now, instead of photo dumping everything on your phone to social media, you can store them in your secure digital shoebox for safekeeping. And while you’re protecting your online privacy, you might also want to follow our simple steps for taking control of your privacy on Facebook




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