Tips on how police officers can protect their privacy online
While you can't become completely invisible online, you should strive to become a challenging target; here's why taking these steps is a worthwhile investment
Content provided by OfficerPrivacy.com
By Pete James
Free sources on the internet can give anyone access to a law enforcement officer's name, home address, email address, phone number, birthday and even the names of family members.
You didn't ask for your address to be blasted all over the internet, but it's there and it's a risk to you and your family that should be mitigated. Anyone can knock on your front door and confront you about their arrest or question why you sent their family member to prison.
This is happening all over the country and is a real risk to every law enforcement officer.
When an officer is involved in a controversial incident, he or she has enough to worry about. Knowing that his or her home address is searchable is one more source of stress the officer shouldn't have to endure.
That's why taking back your online privacy is critical. Here are three tips to help you take your online privacy back.
1. Protect your private information available online
Google your name, the city you live in and the word "address." You'll be surprised at what you see. People-search sites like WhitePages, Spokeo and BeenVerified expose your personal information, including your home address, phone number, email and names of relatives.
Deleting your information from these sites can take up to a month. The earlier you start, the sooner you'll have an extra layer of protection.
2. Stop the junk mail
Your name and address are purchased, sold and re-sold to junk mail distributors. This feeds the data brokers, which is one reason why you will reappear on people-search sites after you've opted out.
3. Stop using your home address
Start using a PO Box or similar mail drop location. Get your Amazon packages delivered to a locker or store.
Most catalogs and magazine subscriptions package and resell your name and address. End the cycle and receive your mail and packages at an address that is not your home.
Additional security measures for online accounts
Do you re-use passwords? When your data is breached, your password is exposed. You have heard the advice that you should not re-use passwords. If you use the same password on multiple accounts, the stolen password can be tried on other accounts you have, thereby allowing a hacker to access your other accounts with the shared password.
If you use a different password on each account, when one password is exposed after a breach, only that one account is compromised.
So, how do you remember a different password for each of your accounts? You don't have to.
When you use a password manager, you only need to remember one password and the password manager remembers the others. The password manager creates unique, difficult-to-guess passwords to each account and remembers them all for you.
The password manager also syncs between your desktop and cellphone so you can log into all of your accounts from whatever device you are currently using.
You can sign up for a free password manager account, but most people find value in upgrading to the paid versions that offer additional features. I would consider this a necessity for our online connected world.
While you can't become completely invisible online, you should strive to become a challenging target to anyone with ill intent. Taking these steps is an investment, but worth it.
Want more privacy tips that will help you take back your privacy? Check out our free eBook, where we go into more detail on the tips listed above. Download our eBook at OfficerPrivacy.com/ebook.
About the author
Pete James retired as a lieutenant after 25 years with the Sacramento (Calif.) Sheriff's Office. He is a computer programmer, has testified as a digital forensics expert witness in state and federal criminal trials and is an advocate for law enforcement officers' privacy. James is the owner of OfficerPrivacy.com, a company that provides privacy services for law enforcement officers.