My Results: How Is Data Shared?

Communicate About Privacy

Request privacy from companies and services that have data about your offline activities, such as healthcare, banking, insurance, and utility providers. Specifically, opt out of sharing your information with third parties. Use these guides to help you navigate opt-out procedures:

Think About Consequences

When deciding whether to communicate sensitive information online, consider that people, companies, and governments might make mistakes, not behave ethically, or or might not follow the law—nor even their own policies—about how to treat your private information. In many cases, there may not even be any laws governing the use of your information.

Learn About Online Privacy

Check out apps, sites, and services before you use them. Read the privacy policy; if you don't like what it says about what the provider will do with your data and who they may share it with, you can do business with a different provider (even if it means paying slightly more—a "privacy premium").

If you can't bring yourself to read through the official Privacy Policies, use a cheat sheet like one of these:

Adjust Your Privacy Settings

Review your privacy settings on your social media and other accounts and on your apps and communication devices, to make sure you're sharing what you want to share. Use these guides to help you identify and change the settings most important to you:

You may want to use different settings for different accounts, on different social networks, or for different apps, depending on how you plan to use them.

  1. Some settings we recommend reviewing include:
    • Location services and frequent places (on apps, sites, and devices);
    • Automatically limiting the audience for your old posts;
    • Sharing your information with third parties/other companies ("marketing affiliates", etc.).
  2. Keep reviewing your settings on a regular basis, and when you get a new account, app, or device, start by reviewing its privacy settings.
  3. Watch this short video to see how location services on your phone can impact you.

Manage Your Profiles

If an app or site asks for your personal information, weigh the benefits before giving it.

  1. Ask yourself: Do they really need this information to provide the service? What permissions are they asking for and do they really need access to that information?
  2. If you don't know how an organization or service will use your information—either because they don't say or because their privacy policy is too unclear for you to read—consider not giving it to them, or at least limiting what information you give them.
    1. Don't fill in non-required fields.
    2. You may be able to give false information in the required fields if it's not necessary to the service you're getting. However, you should check the provider's terms of service first to make sure they do not require that your personal information be correct. Don't give false information to banks, government agencies, and other highly regulated services, as it may be illegal.
  3. Watch these short videos to see how much information we give away without thinking.
    1. If your shop assistant was an app
    2. #PrivacyProject

Close or delete your old social media and other online accounts. (However, remember that your data may still be backed up somewhere, especially if others have reposted it. Closing old accounts doesn't guarantee the information won't be found, it just makes it less likely.)

Limit Data Collection and Tracking

Limit tracking by reviewing your web browser's or your phone's privacy settings for how long it saves cookies from the sites you visit. In browsers, privacy settings can generally be accessed via the "Preferences" or "Options" menus. (Note that these settings change back to the default when you install an update to the browser.

  1. To reduce the chances you can be tracked from session to session, set your web browsers on all your devices to clear any cookies when you close the browser.
    • Guide for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera: How to Clear Your Cache on Any Browser
    • To find instructions for other browsers/devices (or newer versions), do a search on 'automatically clear cookies' and the name of the browser or device.


Install a browser add-on to help limit the amount of information collected about you. However, note that, whatever they may promise, none of these tools can completely prevent sites and services from tracking you; there are too many different tracking methods and they change quickly. (This also means you should check for updates frequently.) Use this guide to choose an anti-tracking tool:

Make sure you choose a tool that actually limits tracking. Some common tools hide ads without preventing advertisers from tracking you.

Privacy Tips for Businesses

Keep up with new laws and regulations about protecting your customers' privacy. Professional associations and local or state business associations often have best practices that can help you comply with the laws for your industry and area, but make sure their recommendations are current before enacting them.

Your employees also have privacy rights you should be aware of:

When customers, clients, or donors entrust you with their personal or contact information, consider the benefits of keeping it private. While passing customer lists to business contacts and third parties may be legal in most industries, it is impolite, and may cause your customers to take their business elsewhere. On the other hand, having a reputation for respecting customers' privacy may provide a competitive advantage.

  1. If you want to share your customer’s personal or contact information with other businesses, use an opt-in model that lets customers know you care about their privacy preferences.
  2. Have strong contracts in place with companies that process your customer’s personal data on your behalf.
  3. Above all, make sure you keep your customers informed about what you are doing with their data:

Be aware that when you buy online ads to drive traffic to your site, or when you sell ad space on your website for other companies' products, you are adding to the advertising company's profile of your customers or members. If your business or organization is of a sensitive nature, you might consider using an advertising service that does not track the behavior of individual users.

Be selective about the software and communication platforms you use in your business or organization. If it doesn't state clearly in the terms of service or user agreement that they will not share your data or your customers' or donors' data with any other entities, contact the company and ask. If you can't get a straight answer, choose a different platform.

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