The online and mobile worlds are fascinating, exciting places. In exchange for sharing some of your seemingly insignificant personal details, you can get a lot of “free” stuff – a way to chat with friends, promote your professional credentials, read the latest news and gossip, and even try new products, games, apps and services.

Everybody loves free stuff, but as the relatively new saying goes, “If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer – you’re the product being sold.” This expression was launched by forum participant blue_beetle on the community weblog Metafilter in 2010. With this saying, blue_beetle beautifully expresses the truth behind some of the world’s biggest companies such as Google and Facebook. The free offers for their services are just bait – their goal is to gain as many users as possible, so they use online user behaviour and interests as a way to market and sell more.

In the BBC documentary “United States of Secrets,” it explained that the information you share on the Internet, and all the behaviour that you display through your mobile and online activities, is being captured by commercial and governmental organisations, and this data is analysed for commercial and state security purposes respectively. A lot of nations on the planet collect information on their citizens, allies and enemies. There are so many ample examples, that it would be more difficult to name a state or country that doesn’t practice this information compiling.

Denying this evolution – which is most likely to conclude with the possibility of just about everyone gaining access to all kinds of services, solutions and products – would be nothing less than counter productive. So I recommend that you take into account a few basic rules when sharing your personal details online:

1. Be Selective

When it comes to online and mobile service providers, share your personal details only with those providers that you know you can trust.

2. Be Brief

Keep your profile as brief as possible and try to avoid providing too many personal details.

3. Stay Private

Make sure your privacy settings are tuned correctly so that it is not possible to view your personal details, location, photos, or other stored data when you’re online.

4. Leverage Available Security

Use the highest security measurements offered by applications. If two-factor authentication is offered, then use it. If not, then practice strong user name and password techniques – for example, don’t use an obvious password (such as the name of your dog, a detail you may have shared elsewhere online), change your password regularly. Also, never auto save the password on your computer, don’t write it down, and obviously never share your credentials.

5. Trust But Verify

Applications that ask for financial and other sharing transactions should offer a true and clear verification of your identity and use your e-ID or other trusted tool for validation. If they don’t, then do not use these applications.

With these tips you’ll be well on your way to keeping your identity safe online and will even have more peace of mind as you take advantage of all the “free” stuff the Internet has to offer.