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5 Checks for Online Privacy

Ever since Google tweaked it's privacy policy on January 24, online confidentiality and its future has been the topic of a raging public debate, making it hard for an average internet user to decide what he should and should not share on an online platform. Experts say that the key is to understand each of the terms and policies before you sign in.

How is data retained?
The data retention policy allows the online provider to hold personal information about you. But the question is, for how long will they hold your data? "Data, here includes personal information such as your name, address , date of birth, photographs and transaction information such as when did you last log into your account, from which device, from which IP address, whose profiles did you visit etc," says Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet and Society.

It's ridiculous to ask "what bits of the privacy policy" should you read, says Graham Cluely, a senior consultant with security software developer Sophos. "Because the only sensible answer is 'all of it.' Only you can decide if you're comfortable with it, so read it and you decide."

What are the legal implications?
It is important to understand under what circumstances will the website share your personal information with the Central and State government agencies.

For instance, Facebook would have to share your information with the Ministry of Home Affairs since Facebook has an office in Hyderabad and comes under the purview of the Indian IT Act.

"But Twitter could deny user information to the Egyptian government during the 2011 Arab protests as it did not fall under the Egyptian jurisdiction," says Sunil Abraham.

What happens after your account is deleted?
Experts say that deleting your account is not the end of it all as social networks usually store your personal information even after you delete the account.

For instance, Google stores your data for nearly nine months even after you delete your GMail account. Similarly, Twitter stores your IP address and personal information for a certain period after you delete your account.

What personal data is shared with private organisations
Apart from the information you share while creating the account, social networks also process and share personal data such as photographs, likes and events with their business partners and social-media analytics and monitoring agencies.

"So the basic rule is don't upload anything to the internet which you don't want your mother-in-law or your boss to see, as you can't necessarily trust the various sites to keep them securely," says Graham Cluely. "Further, think carefully about what other information you may be sharing online - such as your location" .

What can an individual do?
The easiest thing is to customise every aspect of your privacy policy, according computer security firm Kaspersky Labs. For instance, on social networks such Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter, you may limit the information you display to certain groups of people.

"India needs to have a broad and horizontal law that establishes online privacy as a right. Unlike in European countries, India doesn't have a privacy commissioner who can state the principles, interpret the data and question the online providers," says Sunil Abraham.

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