Today, more than ever, people are wary of their privacy. Again and again, both companies and governments have demonstrated that trusting no one on the Internet makes perfect sense.
Remember the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal? Or Edward Snowden’s revelations? Yes, we’re being tracked online with the Big Tech and various agencies taking note of every move we take on the Internet.
There are, however, a few things you could do to at least partially regain your privacy. This article is about that, so here’s what we’ve got…
1. Check privacy settings on social networks
On all social networks that you’re using, make sure to check out privacy settings and see what can you change to protect your identity.
Major social networks know “what you did last summer” and then some. If you’re using default settings and are frequently posting to Facebook, they know pretty much everything about you — both online and offline. They know your web and non-web (offline) whereabouts, as they are able to know from which location you’re using their app.
And the situation is similar with Google, with its trackers being placed all across the web.
So check out those settings pages and see whether you could exclude some details. If there is an option, you should use it.
2. Evade tracking
As we have briefly mentioned above, the likes of Facebook and Google keep track of your Internet usage even when you’re not on their websites. Their tracking codes (trackers) are placed on millions of websites, but luckily – you can do something about it.
For start, you could use a web browser with privacy filters that will automatically remove all tracking codes from websites you’re visiting. We’re talking about browsers like Brave, Epic Privacy Browser and even Safari. For other browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer – there are addons that help you accomplish the same thing.
Or you can use a VPN that could do the same thing. More on that in a moment.
3. Go easy with personal information sharing
There is no need to provide your phone number and email address for many services on the Internet. Even though many of them could work just fine without those details, they keep insisting you provide them with as much data as possible. Think twice before inputting your email address and phone number, as well as other personal data.
Yes, from time to time, you will have or want to sign-up for a new service, and for those occasions – we suggest using some other, secondary email address. It is a good practice to have multiple emails for this reason.
So if you stumble upon a spammy website, they don’t get to have your primary (main) email address.
Similarly, if you can, have a second phone number to share on non-essential websites.
4. Review permissions for mobile apps and browser extensions
You have probably seen how mobile apps ask for various permission during the installation process or when you initially start them.
Most users don’t read these permission-asking alerts, which could lead to havoc down the road. So going forward, make sure to read what every app and browser extension want to access — which resources and information.
For apps and browser extensions you have already installed, you can review their permissions. Then ask yourself about each app/extension – does it really need all that access? For instance, why would a fancy camera app require access to your contacts? There is little logic in it.
While doing this review, feel free to delete apps and extensions you seldom (if ever) use. This will make your device(s) that much faster.
5. Use a VPN
More than any other tool, a VPN will help you keep a low profile on the web. Heck, it will even allow you to spoof anyone who wants to track you online. Just select a server in a different country and as far as the rest of the Internet is concerned, you are located in that other country.
This, BTW, is the same method used for accessing websites and services that could other be outside of your reach. For instance, there could be a company or school policy that prevents you from accessing YouTube, or you’re traveling to a country that blocks access to major news sites — with a VPN you can bypass these restrictions. Also, the same capability lets you access certain services which may not be available in some countries. Or the service is different from one country to the other — i.e. US Netflix is very different from the one offered in other parts of the world.
Finally, a VPN will protect you while accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots. It encrypts all traffic and as a result, if someone tries to snoop into your data – they won’t be able to tell what you did online.
So yes, you (all of us) should get a VPN. Start by checking out this page, and take it from there.