Skip to Main Content

Protect Your Privacy: A How To Guide

This guide is used to introduce library to tools that can be used to better protect their digital privacy.

What Data About Me is Accessible?


Metadata is data about your data.

Consider a photograph on social media. The actual photograph may not be visible to the public. However, there is information about the photograph that can still be accessed, such as when the photo was taken (timestamp), how large the file is, and maybe even the dimensions. This doesn't necessarily describe the photo, but this data can be passively harvested for other purposes. Metadata that is often vulnerable to collection and that can compromise your privacy includes: 

  • Geolocation data - This is data about where you are. This can include the embedded metadata of a photo, where you accessed a service on a mobile browser, or where your cell phone is geographically located when making a call or sending/receiving a text message.
  • IP address - This is the Internet address of your device. This can be used to determine a user's location. It can also be used to trace back to a specific device when accessing a web site or sending an email.
  • Browser/OS data - This information about what device's operating system is being used. This may also include why type and version of a browser. This information is passively gathered when accessing websites.

Social media

Data that is commonly available about you on social media platforms includes:

  • Data that I’ve freely given - This is content that you've posted like a Facebook post, an Instagram photograph, or a tweet.
  • Contact information  - This includes your email address, your username, and possibly your social media URL. 
  • My social network - This includes other users connected to you and their relation to you.
  • My photos - Photographs on social media contains not only yourself, but possibly the people and/or locations in the background, when the photo was taken and/or uploaded, and other characteristics, such as how many likes a photo has received.
  • Data that I haven’t freely given - This is passive data, such as metadata, like when you logged in and logged out, geolocation data, where you accessed the site, and how long you accessed the site.


Why Metadata Collection is Creepy

Virtual Surveillance

Companies can create virtual surveillance apps using publicly accessible data. The Who's in Town App, launched in 2018 uses an API to harvest publicly accessible geolocation data from Instagram to visualize the locations of all of the people you follow on an interactive map.

Privacy & Mobile Devices

What steps can I take to protect my privacy?

  • First, check the user privacy settings in all of your apps AND on your devices. Many privacy policies are opt-in, rather than opt-out.

  • Turn off your location data for apps and close apps when you're not using them.

  • Consider using encrypted platforms for sensitive communication.

Encrypt your mobile data using....

  • Signal
    Signal is an encrypted SMS tool. Unlike standard text messaging, the carrier and sometimes third parties can intercept the text. Signal creates a direct connection from user to user or user to a group of users and vice versa.

  • Tor Orbot
    Tor Orbot is a proxy app for Android based phones built by the Tor Project. It users relays to mask users.