There is a cool new gaming app available online. Now, what do you do if you want to download it? Well, you quickly run through the terms and conditions without looking and then move right on to the game. And what if a site wants to store your credit card information? You may allow it to do this so that you don’t have to enter the data again and again. But have you ever wondered what happens to the data that you so casually share online?
This data may end up in the hands of third-party companies that use it to analyze your online habits and create a profile that can be used in various ways like customized ads etc. And that’s the relatively harmless option. In the worst-case scenario, your online data can also be used maliciously to cause great personal or financial harm. So what are the steps you can take to protect your online data privacy and prevent these things from occurring? This article provides you some basic tips that will make your online presence much more private and secure.
Now, without further ado, let’s see 10 Tips to Protect Your Online Data Privacy in 2019
1. Always Browse in Anonymous Mode
First, let me clarify that browsing in Anonymous Mode is only the first line of defense! Incognito Mode on Google Chrome or Private Windows on Firefox and Safari only provides an extra layer of protection and not complete online privacy. That’s maybe not even possible!!!
But what anonymous mode can do for you is block cookies so that most online tracking of you is defeated. Now if you are wondering what cookies are, here’s the answer. Normally you see ads on websites that are tailored according to your browser history and the sites you have visited. This is achieved using cookies that store information about your online interactions. And browsing in Anonymous Mode is the first step in blocking these cookies and achieving more privacy online.
2. Change Your Default Search Engine with a Privacy-Focused Search Engine
Do you ever wonder how the search engine you are using is making money? How are they paying for the service they are offering you? Well, there are only 2 ways for the search engine to do that and that’s either using donations from people or using profits from ads. And if the search engine is free for you, then most likely it’s making money using you!!!
Yes, that’s right! Search engines record all your data from your searching habits such as your likes and dislikes, your personal information, etc. Then they sell this data about customer profiles to various advertisers and make money off that. In case you wish to avoid that, use a search engine that is funded by donations and is privacy oriented. Some examples of these alternate search engines that you can use are DuckDuckGo, Qwant, Startpage, etc.
3. Use End-to-End Encrypted Messaging Apps
It looks like new messaging apps are popping up like new rap songs ever day! And guess what, these messaging apps are free for you. Now if you have read the previous paragraphs, you know that this is very dangerous! And many messaging apps have been caught reading customer messages and snooping on conversations so you better be extra careful!!!
Now, most messaging apps employ encryption, but it’s only encryption in transit which means that your encrypted messages are decrypted on the provider’s side and then stored in servers. But that’s hardly safe! So it’s best to use end-to-end encrypted messaging apps that are a sure shot way to provide you some privacy. The most popular end-to-end encrypted messaging app that you can use is WhatsApp. Other options are Viber, LINE, Telegram, etc.
4. Use a VPN to Protect Yourself From Service Providers
Do you think that if you are browsing the internet from your home connection your data is safe? Well, that may not necessarily be true! In fact, there is a high chance that your internet service provider may actually be collecting and selling your browsing data to third parties. And it’s not even illegal to do so since the data protection laws are quite fuzzy. So what’s the solution to protect your data?
Easy! You can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that creates a private network across a public network. So your data will be encrypted in this manner and no other third party will be able to view it. Some of the good VPN services for usage are ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Hotspot Shield, IPVanish etc.
5. Enforce Browser Security with these Extensions
You can always improve your online privacy and increase your security by using some extensions and online security tools. For example: Make HTTPS Everywhere extension your best friend as it will encrypt your communication with most websites leading to a secure connection with fewer chances of anyone snooping in. The Ghostery Browser Extension is another great option as that will make your online browsing much safer by detecting and blocking all the third-party data-tracking items.
Also, another great online security tool is AdBlock. This handy little tool will filter out all the annoying ads you don’t want and also protect you from malicious ads that can be used to infect your machine. Another free cybersecurity tool is CheckShortURL that checks where shortened URLs are taking you because double-checking is always good!
6. Don’t Use Public Storages for Private Information
You should definitely not use public storages that are meant for sharing data for storing private information as that is hardly safe! For example, It’s not a good idea to store your passwords or other confidential information in Google Docs as it is relatively easy to access them from there. Similarly, don’t store important scans or other documents in your Dropbox unless they are in an encrypted archive.
Always assume that all information stored on public storages may actually become public at some point (accidentally or on purpose) and so store that information accordingly.
7. Stay Private on Wi-Fi Networks
There is no encryption on public Wi-Fi networks and so anyone can snoop onto your connections and access your data. So if you are just using public Wi-Fi networks, you are risking the loss of your personal information, the leakage of your digital identity and even loss of money in the worst cases.
So always avoid transmitting any sensitive data like logins, credit card data, passwords, etc. over public Wi-Fi if you are using it. Also, use a VPN as that creates a private network across the public Wi-Fi network. So your data will be encrypted in this manner and no other third party will be able to view it.
8. Use Secure Passwords
Using weak or basic passwords to secure your important information is like keeping the key next to the lock!!! These passwords are of no use and it’s almost like you hadn’t set them at all. So make sure to keep secure and complex passwords for your data if want them to be useful. Your passwords should be sufficiently long and complex with at least 12 characters which include upper and lower-case alphabets, numbers and special characters. Also, never use personal information like your name, birthday, pet’s name, etc. for your password as that is easy information to guess.
Another basic thing to remember is that you should not use the same password for multiple applications. Now it may be difficult to remember multiple unique passwords but it is worth it if you want to protect your data.
9. Evade Tracking on Websites
These websites can also sell this analysis based on customer profiles to various third parties and make money off that. In case you wish to avoid that, make sure you have at least some control over where your data ends up. Therefore it is best to control your cookies settings so that websites cannot access your data without your permission. You can do this on Chrome by clicking Cookies under Privacy and Security and then clicking off the cookies.
10. Change Your Social Media Privacy Settings
I am sure that you use social media (Who doesn’t these days!). But the question is do you use your social media privacy settings or not? The biggest mistake you can make is just to keep on using the default settings as social media companies also make money as search engines do. By selling all your online data to the highest bidder!
So it’s important that you adjust your social media privacy settings to provide the maximum possible privacy. For example, You can change the privacy settings on Facebook to regulate your posts, locations, faces, etc. that are freely available.