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September 17, 2019

Privacy Tip of the Week: Ask Yourself These Questions Before Buying Online

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Shopping online is one of the quickest, easiest ways to shop. There’s no fighting through traffic, waiting in line, and struggling to find what you need on the shelves. Many ecommerce goods are also cheaper than what you can buy in-store, and free shipping makes this shopping method even more appealing. However, shopping online also requires you to give up some of your personal information, like your name, address, credit card number, and email. Many virtual checkouts are even more invasive than that, asking for your phone number, date of birth, and sometimes even your gender. Is giving up these details about your life worth the convenience of internet shopping? Ask yourself these questions before buying online to decide:

  • Who is collecting my information?
  • Is it necessary for this transaction?
  • What will be done with my personal details?
  • What are the consequences of giving my information away?
  • Can I buy this product in person?

Who is Collecting My Information?

When you buy something online, a certain amount of information is going to be collected about you. In most cases, the one collecting that data will be the for-profit businesses behind the product. However, other organizations can sell goods, such as non-profit groups and government agencies. Knowing who is collecting your information can help you decide whether or not you want to give it up.

Ask Yourself These Questions Before Buying Online: Is Your Information Necessary for This Transaction?

When you shop online, there is a minimum of information that you need to provide a retailer. Your name and address will make sure your product is sent right to you, and your credit card information (or PayPal) will make sure the company can accept payment. However, many companies will ask for even more than this. While asking for an email address or phone number can help the business contact you if something goes wrong with your order, it also gives them an opportunity to send you newsletters and further communications. Some organizations might even ask for more invasive data like your birth day or gender. These questions are most likely for market research and don’t have anything to do with the order you place. If a business is asking you for unnecessarily personal details, you might want to reconsider your transaction.

What Will Be Done With My Personal Details

As you continue with the the buying process, also continue to ask yourself these questions before buying online. The next thing to consider is what an organization will do with your information when they have it. Will they only use it to ship you your items? Maybe. But, more often than not, businesses collect your info for other reasons as well. One common one is to send you promotions, newsletters, surveys, and other emailed communications.

While this can be annoying, it might not be enough to stop you from shopping online. After all, you should be able to opt out of those emails. Another reason companies might collect your data is to sell it to third parties. Many businesses aren’t upfront about this activity and it can be hard to tell if those are their intentions. However, if you believe that might be why your information is being taken down, you might want to reconsider buying online.

What Are the Consequences of Giving My Information Away?

When you give out details of your life online, you always run the risk of it being misused. Most often, your information will be used for spam that can get annoying. It can also be studied for the purposes of market research, or sold to third party companies who might advertise to you. By providing your credit card details online, there’s also the possibility of breaches occurring which could impact you financially. Before buying online, decide if you’re willing to handle any consequences that may arise.

Can I Buy This Product in Person?

Finally, before you buy online, consider whether or not you can acquire the product in person and if you’re willing to put in the extra time to do so. If you are, there’s no need to buy online. Otherwise, ecommerce might be the right option for you.


eCommerce is a convenience that can have consequences for your safety and privacy. Before making your purchase, ask yourself these questions before buying online to keep yourself protected.

To protect yourself further, use HotBot VPN to securely encrypt your online shopping sessions.

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