Here are eight tips to help you protect the privacy of your personal information:
1. Implement a personal-information "need-to-know basis" policy
Many businesses ask people for all sorts of personal information that is truly unnecessary for performing the function for which the person has approached the business. In some cases, the same is true for doctor's offices. Provide whatever information is needed, but resist the temptation to provide extraneous information. In some cases, businesses may pay you for the data--usually in the form of discounts (e.g., via frequent shopper cards that track purchases to a specific person at a particular address)--in which case you need to weigh the pros and cons of supplying the information and make an appropriate decision. Remember: Businesses do not normally give you discounts out of kindness--they want your information.
2. Make sure to wipe--not just delete--sensitive files
When you delete files on a computer or smartphone, the contents of the files are not truly deleted--they just disappear from being seen by the operating system, but remain partially (or even fully) intact in memory or on disk. In some cases, even if they are totally overwritten, they still could be restored. As such, if you are going to recycle or sell an electronic device and cannot remove the storage before doing so, make sure to wipe the device using specialized software designed for this purpose. (For information on how to do so for smartphones, please see the article 'How to Securely Wipe Your Smartphone's Data.") Of course, removable storage media--such as microSD cards--should ideally be removed from any device you are going to give to others; if you must part with the media, make sure to wipe it as well.
3. Never provide personal information to anyone who calls you
If you receive a phone call from your bank, credit card company, utility company, or any other party that asks you for personal information, hang up and call back at the number that is listed for that party on your account card, the company's website, or another official source.
4. Do not sync sensitive information to the cloud
Both Apple iOS and Google Android devices offer automatic syncing of information, which can help protect you if your device breaks or is lost, and allows you to access the same information from multiple devices. But the convenience comes at a cost--privacy. Think about what information you let leave your possession.
5. Do not charge your electronic devices by connecting them to other people's chargers or computers
Besides increasing the risk of malware infection, connecting devices to other people's computer equipment could, in some situations, cause data to be transferred between them.
6. Never rely on the closing of accounts to ensure data deletion
Remember when people who had paid the adultery-facilitation website Ashley Madison to remove their accounts found out that their information was still on the site--because it was leaked after a data breach? If you want to help ensure that account information is removed from a server, first modify it before closing your account. If, for whatever reason, the data is not removed and then leaks, there is at least some chance that the data that will leak will be the phony data. (Obviously, in some situations, it is also less than ideal to use your real information in the first place, or to be using a site altogether.)
7. Avoid syncing your phone to a rental car
... or to a loaner car if you receive one when your own car is being repaired. If you feel that you must sync your phone--for example, in order to use a built-in Bluetooth speakerphone or internet radio during a long trip--do not forget to delete the phone's connection from the car's memory before returning the car. Remember to do the same when returning leased cars.
8. Observe good cybersecurity hygiene
All of the privacy tips in the world won't matter much if you get hacked. Please see the article "13 Tips to Achieve Great Cybersecurity Without Spending a Fortune" for some important tips.