Since the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us have adapted to the new normal and withdrawn to the safety of our homes. It’s only natural, then, that our internet use has spiked significantly – around 70%, according to Forbes. But now that we work from home, communicate with our distant loved ones, and commune with friends through our devices, our private information is at risk more than ever.

You’ve probably heard of the privacy concerns that plague many of the communications apps that have grown in popularity during the quarantine. These are usually video conference apps or mobile video social networking apps that leave you vulnerable to third parties and data leaks. There are also warnings against using apps designed for contract tracing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Though these apps may be helpful in these times, they do process and store location data in real-time. 

People have also turned to the social media to join groups or communities that align with their hobbies and interests. Online marketplaces have also become more active, with people trying to make ends meet in a time of such economic uncertainty. But what people don’t always realise is that some of these public groups expose their profiles to strangers they don’t necessarily trust. Other messaging apps can scan users’ personal and private chats, and use the data for targeting and advertising. Some apps can also access messages and data to give to law enforcement agencies for tracking. 

So this leaves us with the question: What app can you really trust with your privacy in the era of social distancing? Rakuten Viber, one of the top messaging apps in the world, gives you several ways to prioritise your security online. This is keeping in line with its commitment to protecting the data of its users. “Unlike other apps, which mine user data to improve their marketing campaigns or to sell to other companies, the personal messages sent via Viber are by default encrypted, which means it is virtually impossible for anyone from Viber to view users’ chat. On Viber, you can be sure that every personal message you send can only be read on the device you send it to,” says Rakuten Viber CEO Djamel Agaoua. 

You can even go a step further and follow some guidelines to secure the info on your device. For one, you can check your phone’s Privacy Settings. Here you can see which apps you have and if you’ve granted them permission to access data elsewhere on your phone. If you spot an app that has access to something you don’t want it to, just tap on the toggle switch to turn it off. 

If you’re on a shared device, it’s especially important to turn off autofill to protect sensitive info you may have typed in. Of course, you should log out of apps you’ve finished using, so the next user doesn’t see your private profile. 

Be vigilant when it comes to the apps you install. Only get apps from trusted stores, like the App Store or Play Store, and only get them if they are trusted and secure. Remember, many apps can actually access your data for collection, commercial, and advertising purposes. Go through every single app on your phone, and keep in mind that each one is a potential privacy problem. You may not think of it, but your even your photo editing suite can be a gateway to your contacts, location, and profile. If you encounter an app that you hardly use anymore, delete it – it will be one less security risk on your phone. 

Since Viber is by default encrypted, you don’t need to worry about your data getting leaked or sold. “At Rakuten Viber, we’re proud to say that we put customer privacy first. We will never sell your data. In fact, we can’t even see it in the first place,” says Rakuten Viber CEO Djamel Agaoua. 

Moving all your personal interactions online may present some security risks, but if you’re careful with the apps you use and take the measures to protect your privacy online, you can dodge all the traps in the data minefield of the internet and connect with those who matter most with some peace of mind.

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