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You probably use the web every single day. And a growing concern among every single web user whether or not their information—their identity, banking information, or what they’re browsing—is being tracked by eyes other than their own. And it’s not just hacking threats that we’re all concerned about. Our private information is a billion-dollar goldmine to companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, who are stockpiling our data for their own lucrative purposes.
There’s no escaping it on our phones, either—over 250 apps in Apple’s app store are collecting our information.
And apart from tech giants amassing our data in droves, there’s a lot to fear in the world of government tracking (let’s all remember Edward Snowden).
Taking control of internet privacy can cease hacking attempts, gives those living in countries that might block content the power of accessing what they want, and can give us all the freedom of the fundamental human right that is real privacy. This year more than ever, there’s an overwhelming need to take back the helm of what’s ours.
In 2020, make your web privacy a central concern. Here are five tools to do just that.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Implementing a VPN is kind of like locking yourself in a near-impenetrable room while the rest of the world carries on out in the open. It’s your very own private chamber, and no one has another like it.
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are private, controlled networks that give users anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. A VPN protects your privacy by using encryption tech between your device and a VPN server, masking your IP address so that all that you’re doing is untraceable.
Setup is a painless process: simply get a budget VPN for access, make an account, then download it to your computer and mobile devices. After logging in, you’ll find that most VPNs offer servers based in other countries that you can connect to. But before implementing a VPN, you have to make sure that they’re not doing the very thing they set out to protect you from. Make sure the VPN you choose has a no-log policy—meaning, it doesn’t track and keep records of user activities.
If bulletproof cybersecurity is what you want, then your search ends at Tor, or The Onion Router. Tor is free software that facilitates anonymous transmissions. It’s made up of tens of thousands of volunteer nodes working hard to encrypt your data.
After you connect to the Tor network, all sent and received data passes through an arbitrary selection of nodes only engaging through the Tor network. Data leaving your device is encrypted more than once, and an encryption layer is removed each time the data reaches another node until it reaches its final exit node—a process called onion routing.
In the highly unlikely event that someone manages to intercept data, it’s either the entry or exit node that they’d find, but not both, making a pathway to a user’s browsing history or data impassable. The unique folds of the Tor system mean that no one (not even the people running the nodes) can see your data.
Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) uses the Tor network to protect user anonymity by way of a USB stick or a DVD independent of your computer’s operating system. It’s free software that can be implemented whenever the device is engaged, and on any computer—your own, a friend’s, a library computer, etc.
Tails are complete with cutting-edge cryptographic tools that leave no box unchecked when it comes to protecting your data. It comes with secure, built-in applications for trustworthy web browsing, emailing, messaging, and more, and is easily disengaged when a user wants to return to their computer’s own OS.
Even if you’re in private browsing mode, some search engines are still tracking your every move. DuckDuckGo eliminates all tracking when you’re searching the web, for free.
DuckDuckGo is essentially a private, secure Google—a search engine that doesn’t spy on your data. You can use DuckDuckGo’s search page to browse your queries, or you can add it as your default browser, which will allow you to use it when searching from your address bar. And the great thing about DuckDuckGo is that what comes up is pretty much indiscernible from what you’d find with a Google search.
Somewhere around 269 billion emails are sent and received every day. And according to an OMC study, over 40 percent of those emails are tracked. Privacy concerns for email users are a serious issue, and ProtonMail is a free, encrypted email service that promises users to complete privacy with client-side encryption. This means no one, not even ProtonMail, will have eyes on your emails.
ProtonMail is a Swiss-based startup whose infrastructure occupies Europe’s most robust data centre—all safeguarded under 1000 meters of solid rock. It’s fully compatible with other email providers and is easy to use without the need for software.