Online privacy is a very critical topic that we should always take into consideration.
With new tech products coming out every year – from connected apps, home assistant devices (which are slowly gaining popularity) and web services, among others, it is important to understand the problems surfacing about online privacy as well as solutions on how to protect yourself from it.
So, how do you protect yourself or your products from potential online privacy breach?
Here are some effective solutions to help you protect your online privacy that does not require high-end or sophisticated technology.
Get a VPN
Once you connect yourself to the internet, your online privacy is already in danger. Since everything you do becomes public, all the information you consume and give out can be intercepted. And any server you are connected to can peep on the information being transmitted on your device. So if you are sending a very important and sensitive email, then there is a possibility that someone out there also knows about it.
That is why you should consider getting a VPN. A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a service that connects you to the internet safely.
What it really does is encrypting your connection. So if someone tries to intercept your network, VPN will make your information unreadable. In fact, if anyone is trying to intercept you they will not know your location or your connection, thus giving you an extra layer of online protection.
It may sound too technical and complicated, but modern VPNs now are very simple and easy to use. You don’t need a specific technical skill to be able to set it up. You can just simply install VPN and enable it with just one click.
If you are looking for the best VPNs in the market, you may check it out here.
Though they are very easy to install and use, you still need to be careful in choosing the right VPNs, especially those that are free. They won’t be giving it out for free if they don’t need anything from you. So be careful.
All browsers, whether Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc. has an incognito or privacy mode.
If you want to access Chrome’s privacy mode, press CTRL+SHFT+N for Windows and CMD+SHIFT+N for Mac. When you are in privacy mode, the browser will not store any data from your current session. Meaning, it won’t record or have a data on any web cache, cookies, etc. You can also access incognito mode via mobile.
If you are doing something in private, you can use this mode to give you extra online protection. And since no data or information is recorded, you will not able to retrieve any information on the device you are using if you are in incognito mode. But be reminded that this will still not make your connection secure. You are still connected to the public internet. The concept of incognito is it gives you privacy on your end only.
Beware of web activity trackers
One of the problems of being in a public connection is that you can be tracked wherever you go.
And this does not only apply to ads. Every website you visit will attempt to track you and your activities online.
Here are some activity trackers that you should be aware of:
- Traffic analytics – they aim to get a better understanding of audiences. They are trying to find out the location, device, time spent on the website and subpages, etc. of users.
- Current location – used by weather widgets and other functional widgets. They are also used for general tracking and data analysis.
- Social media – It tracks activities based on what page and article people are reading.
- Facebook pixel – this connects your activity to your profile so that Facebook will be able to know which ads do you enjoy more so they can give you a better ad placement.
- Media trackers – This is how YouTube was able to see what kind of videos you are watching so it can recommend related videos to you.
These trackers may seem to be good when it comes to understanding your audience and website visitors. But these can make your website slower and generally less safe to use.
If you don’t want anyone or anything monitoring your activity. You can use Ghostery. It is available in all major web browsers. It is simple to use and it is free.
Ads are everywhere. Whether you are on Google, or on Facebook, every single page on the internet is bombarded with ads.
Ads are not only annoying. They also contribute to breaching your online privacy. They take data by the activities you do with them. They monitor your clicks and other actions you take. And they use this to follow you wherever you are on the internet.
Other ads are worse. They try to infect your computer or phone with malware. They trick you into installing unsafe software or ads. They also trick you so you can do an accidental click.
The best solution is to block ads. The easiest and best way to do this is to install an ad blocker extension on your browser. With this extension, it will block any ad that will pop on your computer. These ad blocker extensions do not need any configuration.
Here are some ad blockers that you can use for different browsers:
Consider using signal or telegram
You cannot trust all forms of online communication.
For example, no matter how much you want to be private with your confidential emails, it is bound to at risks of a breach, since it will pass through servers.
Communication on social media like Facebook Messenger and direct message on Twitter, are also at risk of online privacy. Just recently, 32 million accounts on Twitter were hacked and leaked.
So your private conversations to someone using these platforms are in danger.
If you want your communication to be more private and secured, or you are trying to send sensitive information, try using Signal or Telegram. They may seem old-fashioned, but this will make sure that your communication will be private and no leak of information will happen.
Signal and Telegram employ end-to-end encryption. You can also install it in multiple mobile and desktop apps.
Both also enable voice calls, which is safer and more private than traditional phone calls.
Don’t give out important information on non-HTTPs websites
HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP. It is a standard protocol that sends data between web browsers and the website you are in.
Checking if you are on an HTTPS website is simple. Just simply look at the browser address bar – website starts with https:// with a green padlock icon.
So don’t give out information (like credit card information, social security numbers, address, etc.) on websites that do not start with https:// and do not have a padlock icon on the browser address bar.
There is no easy fix for this, just be careful and be watchful of non-HTTPS sites.
Clear your cookies regularly
Cookies are a small packet of information that is being stored in your computer or mobile devices. These packets of information are related to your personal activity on a given website.
The purpose of cookies is to keep you logged in to certain websites so you are not forced to re-enter your information. They are also used to store your shopping cart items in case you abandon your cart when you do online shopping. It also keeps track of the article you are reading on previous sites.
These are just some of the functions of cookies. Cookies are impossible to avoid. You cannot totally disable them. Because if you do, you will have a hard time accessing Facebook, Twitter, online stores or other services that require logging in.
Use secure email
Email, as mentioned, is not that secured. But we cannot live without emails.
There are still other ways to make it more secure.
First, say goodbye to free email providers like Gmail and Outlook.com. Go for premiums. One alternative also is to go for Tutanota, which comes with a fully encrypted mailbox.
Second, you can add another layer of encryption on your free email inbox. For Gmail, you can use Chrome extensions, that enable end-to-end encryption on your messages and attachments. This encryption will make your emails more private.
Read mobile apps permission
iOs and Android apps require permission before you can use it. Some of these apps are a bit demanding that they require more information and access to your device to be fully functional.
Imagine this, a cooking app that requests for your location? That is something suspicious.
On your iOs device, go to settings, scroll down and go through each app and check their settings.
Update to a newer device
It is annoying that tech companies continue to introduce products and ask people to upgrade. But if you want to be secured in this digital world, these upgrades are the key.
Newer phones have upgraded features that older phones do not have. If your device was bought in 2015. The security patches there are old and needs to be upgraded to a new device if you want extra security.
Like it or not a new device is unavoidable, especially if you are after online privacy.
Delete your files completely
Putting it in a trash bin is not enough. It can still be accessed by anyone. So if you really want to get rid some an information, try using some file shredding tool Dr. Cleaner for Mac, and Eraser for windows.
Be careful with social media.
Don’t share personal information on your social media accounts. There have been multiple cases where burglars were able to easily access a home because they got the information from the victim’s social media account and their activities on it.
These are just some of the things that you can do to protect your online privacy. Do and practice some of them to ensure that you are in safe mode when using the internet.