If there’s one thing everyone wants to protect it’s their privacy and information online.
But while we think we know what we are doing, using filters, incognito browsers and deleting our history, you might not be protecting yourself as much as you think.
While millions of people are taking to ad blockers, that doesn’t solve the underlying and relentless tracking that we are all subject to.
Taking these simple actions can strongly enhance your privacy.
1. Surf the Internet with safe browsers
Check what browser you’re using
All browsers are not created equal.
For starters, look into your browser’s privacy settings and increase them where possible.
Also, be aware that certain browsers such as Google Chrome for example, tie back into the entire Google ecosystem to build a deeper footprint.
browsers such as the Tor browser, that wipe your tracks clean when you’re online.
The less history you have, the more freedom of choice and privacy you receive.
2. Be careful where you search
At Google, the searches you conduct are used to build a data history/packet of information about you, which is then used for many things, including the likelihood that it is shared or may be shared in the future with other companies, governments, etc.
Of course it feeds their data and targeted marketing efforts.
Alternatively, DuckDuckGo doesn’t keep your search history or create a data packet about you.
While newer European regulations are intended to protect us better from this data whale, in fact Google is fighting and attempting to subvert these regulations.
3. WhatsApp is not as private as you think
Don’t just trust WhatsApp
For hundreds of millions of people, WhatsApp is their go-to app for truly private, encrypted chat conversations.
What does this mean to you? It means that Facebook is tracking and storing data on who you are talking to, along with when you are talking to them, and where you are when you are posting.
They also use this data to target ads to you when you are on other sites.
Facebook’s new experiment with encrypted chat at Facebook Messenger suffers the same fate.
Where can you turn? There are a bunch of apps like Signal, which is a cross platform app and also for iOS there is iMessages
4. Use encrypted cloud storage
Microsoft/Apple/GoogleCloud storage might not be the best optionCloud storage might not be the best option
There are countless cloud storage providers out there, however what you want are ones that can’t see your information.
SpiderOak for example, encrypts your files on your device and then uploads them to its datacenter.
That means you’re sending an encrypted copy of your files that SpiderOak can’t decrypt in the first place.
Edward Snowden recommends SpiderOak by the way…
5. Social Networking is changing
Facebook is collecting information
Facebook has never hidden the fact that they believe in a vastly open world and open information sharing across and within borders.
Sadly that powerful vision always included continuous privacy infractions and content manipulation along with incessant targeted advertisement strategies.
Social media is undergoing a significant transformation with Pew Research now identifying millennials as the demographic most concerned about their online privacy.
New social network companies are at banging at the foot of Facebook’s mountain, offering better communication tech along with respect and privacy too.
6. Remember to Log Out
Logging out of your social media and online bank accounts after using them is like locking your front door when you leave home. It’s quick, simple, and prevents unwanted intruders from gaining access to your personal data.
Some people believe merely closing the window where you are logged in is enough to prevent others from accessing your account. The truth is, you may still be signed in to your account on that device, leaving you vulnerable to tracking. The only way to be sure is to log yourself out when you are done using an online service – especially if you are using a public machine/network.
7. Don’t Access Confidential Accounts on Public Networks/Devices
Come to think about it, it’s best that you don’t log in to your social media or online bank accounts at all when you’re out in public. Many of these networks routinely gather and send your data to third parties, and rogue networks can snoop your traffic and passwords or inject malware and ads onto your device.
The best way to protect yourself against such risks is to avoid accessing your social media or online bank via a public connection or someone else’s device. But if you have to (or really really want to), you should…
8. Use a VPN
Connecting your device to a VPN redirects all of your device traffic through a secure and encrypted tunnel. This means Internet service providers or sketchy parties trying to peek into your device traffic will only see a bunch of meaningless garbage.
In addition, using a VPN allows you to access content that is blocked in certain countries and can even help you save money while shopping. When you’re connected to a VPN, third parties will only see the IP address of the network you are connected to, instead of your real IP address. All said, using a VPN should be standard procedure for all forms of Internet usage, public or not.
What’s the next big threat to privacy?
Apple CEO Tim Cook has spoken about the risk to privacy
Governments around the world are demanding backdoor access into apps and devices and this is a big threat to privacy globally and locally.
Backdoors are not just about surveillance; they also enable hackers to steal your data directly and steal data from companies, banks, etc.
The argument for giving governments such power in order to protect us against terrorism also naively assumes that the government or leaders will only use these doors for individual instances of national safety.
And there’s a big difference between giving a backdoor to Germany versus North Korea, and unfortunately governments are not always the good guys.
Weighing the pros and cons, I understand Tim Cook and Apple’s continuing insistence that while a back door may sound good in theory, in reality it doesn’t.
Hackers around the world will be attempting to crack the code on the back door.
This is an evolving conversation and let’s keep in mind that technology is constantly changing and there may come better ways to track and identify people who are dangerous without compromising the privacy protections of encryption.