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What You Need to Know About Your Privacy and Online Ads!

online privacy and ads
Read time: 4 min.

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Many of us have probably heard of how Cambridge Analytica collected data from 87 million Facebook users. As such, many Facebook users have expressed concerns after this scandal and are worried about their privacy online. We will be sharing some simple ways on how you can prevent your data from being harvested in the future, for purposes such as showing “relevant ads” to you.

*By the way, you may check if you are affected by Cambridge Analytica via this link*

1. Read and agree before accepting.

Many of us are probably guilty of blindly clicking accept when using a new app. This applies to all social media and mobile platforms and of course, our beloved terms and conditions. You probably blindly accepted the permissions after downloading the last app on your smartphone. Have a look at these two examples below.


Seriously? Have you ever wondered why a quiz app on Facebook would need access to your photos? Over at the Play Store, it’s even worse. Why does a flashlight app need your contacts, location and help me “send SMS messages”?

If you fail to read, your data is probably being collected without your knowledge! If you feel that certain permissions are not necessary to enjoy the full experience of the app, hit the decline button next time. To add on, most Android phones have a built-in toggle to turn on the flashlight, so please do not download any app for it.

2. Post what you want others to know

Are you probably thinking “Huh? I also know. Of course, I post what I want to people to know la!” We shall now explain what we mean by post what you want others to know.

What you post online is visible to others. (Duh!) Step one to increase your privacy is to change the settings. We recommend setting your posts visible to friends only. On Facebook, you can do this by going over to the Privacy Settings. On Instagram, head over to the settings and change your account to private.  We believe many of us have probably done that.

Unfortunately, this is not enough. Always have the assumption that what you post online can be visible to the public. It is not that hard to screenshot, right? This is also how nudes and other scandals get leaked online.

If you are not comfortable with the whole world knowing your whereabouts every hour (and not worry about it annoying your friends), then feel free to post it online! Many of us are probably concerned about this idea. This is what we mean by posting what you want others to know – It is to have the kiasi mentality.

3. Going (almost) anonymous


Image Source: Pexels

For those who are concerned about your privacy online, you can take the extra step to make yourself almost invisible online. Some of the easier ways are always to use https and using a good VPN.  Your browsing activity will be masked from your ISP. We have already done an article about that before so you can read it here and here. Of course, if you are doing something illegal, it is still possible for the authorities to track you down.

Targeted Ads – Simple Breakdown on How it Works

Now let us proceed to targeted advertising. Sometimes while you are surfing the net, you will see an ad that shows something that you want. It could be the newest clothing, games, air travel deal or whatever you are interesting. You might be wondering whether you are being spied on or is it just pure coincidence.

How targeted ads work is when surfing the net, be it googling or topping up your wardrobe on Taobao, these searches are stored as cookies in your browser. The ads are thus, able to show what you like.


Image Source: Pexels

Why are Targeted Ads Bad?

A big concern is how hackers can steal these data and easily exploit them. Yes, this goes back to the whole privacy concern which we were talking about earlier. It is believed that the data harvested by Cambridge Analytica was used to manipulate votes during the US Election. Over in Singapore, while there is also strong criticism about this “invasion of privacy”.

Why are Targeted Ads not so Bad?

Sometimes, you can get what you want through ads. As mentioned earlier, the cookies enable the ads to be targeted for you. There could be a deal you have missed out. Additionally, you are supporting many websites who rely on ads to sustain their business.

While it is hard to prevent compromising our privacy when online, the best way to mitigate the invasion is to be smart.

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