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Online Transactions Personal Information Leak

10th of June, 2015

By definition a transaction is “an occurrence in which goods, services, or money are passed from one person, account, etc., to another”[1], you could say an exchange of information between two parties.


Every time you purchase a product online or sign up to a social media platform you are completing an online transaction. In some shape or form you are paying for an exchange of services.


$1,471bn per year is produced in online retail sales worldwide according to A lot of money is poured into encrypting users credit card information and data to gain the consumers trust and promote online transactions. Many people are concerned about browsing online securely and completing credit card transactions via the internet. The lack of user awareness for the protection of ones privacy and information which is easily accessed, has lead to a rather misinformed user base if we are honest with ourselves.


According to TransUnion, every minute about 19 people fall victim to identity theft. With the increase in new forms of completing online transactions, can encryption technology keep up with this growth?


So what information am I divulging when completing transactions online?


When you sign up to a Facebook account and agree to their privacy policy, you are accepting an exchange of information. You have access to their platform and you can communicate with your friends, share stories and pictures of yourself and your interests.  Facebook in turn can use your information. They reserve the right to use any information you upload for any advertisements on their platform. For example CNBC explains it like this “..if a user “likes” a brand on Facebook, the person’s name and picture may show up alongside that brand’s advertising message in a friend’s news feed, but only if the user has opted to share their “likes” with friends.”


Nico Sell, CEO of the Wickr Foundation says “I think people would be shocked to find out that almost every single privacy policy is the same, whether it’s WhatsApp, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook you are granting a free transferable worldwide license for what you input into their free service.”


In terms of completing purchases online East-Tech describes step by step how one could get a hold of your credit card details etc should you have auto-fill settings enabled in your google chrome browser. All that needs to happen is for you to lose your laptop or for someone to gain access to your wifi key. Check this video out from the BBC of how quick someone could gain access to your wifi key.

Since it seems we have to give up personal information in order to enjoy the ease of completing online transactions, we need to arm ourselves with effective privacy tools. Educating yourself on the dangers of hackers intercepting your transactions or the consequences of giving up information over social networks is crucial and we should all increase our privacy awareness. There is an abundance of privacy software and tools which you can install that will let you browse online securely.


How do I protect myself and my data?


Review the privacy policies of the sites you visit with the chrome extension Privacy Snapper and learn about privacy online with  Privacy Shell. When making a purchase make sure the website is using https:// and the checkout cart, e.g PayPal, securely encrypts your details. Delete your browsing history and clear your cookies and cache. Do not use auto-fill for sensitive information and definitely enable ‘do not track’ in your browser settings.


When using social networks be mindful that even your friend’s applications may have access to part of your profile. It is preferable not to share any information or image to which you are not comfortable relinquishing your ownership. Privacy is a human right but online, the users are the ones who

need to take measures to protect that freedom.


We are all very much aware this is the age information. Let us protect the power we as individuals gain from it, rather than having to forgo due to the security concerns having outweighed the benefits.

About Amy Rudolph

Amy is a well traveled web developer. With a love for technology and appreciation for freedom she is very keen to carry out Privacy Shell’s mission, to encourage the use of technology with a heightened privacy awareness.

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