Michiel Mulders

@michielmulders

7 Tips to protect your online privacy

Nowadays, it is not an easy task to protect your online privacy. Let’s take a look at the simple solutions we can implement to be better protected.

1. Block trackers with Ghostery and log out from Facebook

Ghostery is a browser extension that monitors all the different web servers that are being called from a particular web page and matches them with a library of data collection tools (trackers). If it finds a match, Ghostery will block communication with one or more of these companies, it interrupts the call from leaving the browser. In short, it allows you to take control over who can collect your data as you can also whitelist certain websites.

Where Ghostery does a great job, it is important you log out from Facebook every time you leave the website. A social media giant like the aforementioned Facebook can read everything you are up to, even if you have shut the application or window you were accessing Facebook through.

Facebook then stores what you have got up to online which then becomes a precious commodity to third parties, Facebook itself, and online hackers. To stay untrackable, simply log out!

2. VPN to stay anonymous

VPNs are perhaps one of the best ways to protect yourself online and have truly anonymous browsing sessions. They work by connecting users to the internet through another server. That connection is then encrypted by the VPN provider who has set up the Virtual Private Network for its subscriber.

Many younger people use a VPN for streaming movies online via Hulu and others. If you have ever wondered if streaming through a VPN is slower, it is not. A better overview of Hulu, streaming and VPN services can be found at WizCase.

3. Encrypted messaging

Signal is an open source messaging app that incorporates strong encryption as the main ingredient. In comparison with other messaging tools, Signal is simple, add free, and works cross-platform without the integration of ads or any nasty trackers. Sure, you don’t get fancy stickers or in-chat games, it’s at little expense of your privacy.

4. Avoid public wifi networks

Public wifi hotspots are convenient to use, however, mostly there is no means of secure communication leaving whatever data you transmit open for anyone to inspect. Therefore, never check sensitive information like a bank statement as all of the information like passwords are exposed. Of course, a good solution here is to use a VPN to add that needed layer of encryption on top of this free wifi.

5. Use 2-factor Authentication

2FA makes it harder for identity theft to happen as criminals require more information than just your username and password. If you think that 2FA is a waste of your time, think twice! As technology improves, it takes SMS providers only 2 seconds to send you an SMS with a unique login code to complete your 2-factor login.

Even if you lose your phone, there are fallback mechanisms in place to help you recover your account. Nowadays, a 2FA tool provides you with backup codes in case you lose your phone so you can set up the same account on a new phone and block the 2FA keys from a lost phone.

6. Avoid Using GPS

An article published by the NY Times on the 10th of December talks about the hidden data markets for GPS data. The Times found that at least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information.

The database reviewed by The Times — a sample of information gathered in 2017 and held by one company — reveals people’s travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day. It also revealed that apps which aren’t active on the user’s mobile phone were still able to track his GPS data.

How is this trend established? Nowadays, few people pay for an application and downloads of cracked apps skyrocket. Therefore, many apps offer their services for free, but free isn’t always free. Many of these apps ask your consent for collecting your data to be sold in order for them to profit.

So, if you want to protect your identity in our connected world, check the permissions of your apps and always turn off your GPS when you’re not using it.

7. Disable auto fill option

This may sound like overkill, but turning off your autofill option is an easy way to start protecting yourself online. Autofill is a very useful feature for quickly filling in online forms, however, it is an easy function for malicious websites to retrieve your information. The moment your personal info has been inputted in the form, the website is able to store your information, even when you haven’t clicked the submit button.

While there is much more you can do to become completely anonymous, I believe that these simple steps can help you a lot to protect your online identity without tremendously compromising user experience.

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