Are you concerned enough about online privacy to actively do something about it? If not, you probably have friends who are. That is the way these sorts of things work. But note that your friends have very legitimate concerns. They worry about online privacy because they know the harm a lack of privacy can lead to. It might be worth sitting down with them and picking their brains a bit.

Understand that online privacy is important enough that government regulators are working overtime to beef up privacy rules. The much-publicised General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted by the EU in 2018 is just the tip of the iceberg. Other countries are building on the success of that legislation to create similar rules for their jurisdictions.

Still convinced you have nothing to worry about? If so, check out these five reasons your friends are so concerned about online privacy:

1. Your ISP Can Track You

Connecting to your ISP is the most rudimentary part of getting online. Your ISP is your gateway to the online world. But do not believe for a minute that your ISP respects your privacy enough to let you do what you do in complete privacy. They don’t. Furthermore, it doesn’t require a team of privacy audit specialists to figure out how ISPs utilise customer data.

Your ISP can track you wherever you go online. In fact, ISP tracking is a regular occurrence. Service providers track their users because the data they glean can be sold. You are essentially a money maker for your ISP every time you go online. They charge you a monthly service fee and simultaneously sell data pertaining to your online activity.

2. Identity Theft Is a Growing Problem

Perhaps you’re not all that concerned about ISP tracking. How do you feel about identity theft? Not only is identity theft real, but it is also a constantly growing problem. Every day, more people fall victim to hackers who find ways to steal their personal information and then their identities.

Recovering from identity theft is no simple matter. Even a single breach of your personal information could force you to change the usernames and passwords on of all your online accounts. It can mean having to change your driver’s licence, your bank account, and so forth. You might even have to cancel all of your credit cards and pay off outstanding loans in order to clear damaged credit.

In the most extreme cases, victims of identity theft find themselves facing insurmountable debts racked up by thieves. They may be looking at mortgages, car loans, and other high-volume debts that do not actually belong to them. Trying to clear those debts is a nightmare.

3. Hackers Can Control Your Devices

Next up, online privacy is important because hackers can take over and control your devices. Let’s say your home Wi-Fi network isn’t insecure. A hacker looking to steal personal information discovers how easy it is to break into your devices. In minutes, he or she can control those devices for his/her own use.

Your desktop computer could be taken over and used as a server to launch cyber-attacks against targeted websites. Your laptop could be used to send out millions of spam emails. Hackers could even take over your home security devices. They could spy on you with your own security cameras and taunt you with that smart speaker that reads you the news headlines.

4. You Might Be a Servant to Big Tech

How are you doing so far? If you are starting to feel concerned about online security, that’s good. Now consider the fact that you might already be a servant to big tech. Here’s a litmus test: how often do you interact with Google- and Facebook-owned services?

Google owns the internet in terms of searches. But there’s more. They have their fingers in a shedload of online properties and tools including YouTube, Google Maps, Google Docs, Gmail, and on and on. Most important of all is the fact that they control the vast majority of online advertising.

If you interact with Facebook, you are interacting with a similar entity. Facebook owns multiple online properties including Instagram and WhatsApp. They own Oculus VR, Onavo, and Beluga. Just like Google, every bit of information Facebook properties collects from you is used to drive profits.

5. People Can See Your Dirty Laundry

If none of these other things compel you to be concerned about online privacy, maybe this last reason will: a lack of privacy suggests other people can see your dirty laundry. Social media offers a perfect example. Did you know that prospective employers now search social media profiles?

Maybe there was a point in your life when you posted some rather embarrassing material on social media. Sure, that was 10 years ago. But have you bothered to go back and delete those posts? If not, any company you apply for a job with could easily uncover the information with a brief look at your social media pages.

Your friends have legitimate reasons to be concerned about online privacy. If you are not concerned, you would do well to ask yourself why. Privacy is becoming more scarce with every passing day. As we lose privacy, we also lose freedom and self-determination. None of us can afford that.