Technology is a wonderful thing, but it comes with a price. Much of the data collected about us is done so for advertising purposes. We may not like it, but if we continue to expect services for free it is only logical that providers make money one way or another.
What’s important is to know what information about you is collected, who has access and what they do with it.
Here are some tips and techniques you can use to minimize the data that is collected and to protect your privacy online:
1. Turn off the location services on your phone or mobile device.
If you need it at some point, for instance for maps or GPS directions, you can always turn it back on. Many of the apps that are preloaded or that we load onto our smartphones utilize location services to track our habits.
2. Remove geo tags.
When taking photos, ensure there are no latitude and longitude or geo tags in the photos. When you post these photos to social media you are essentially advertising to others where the photo was taken.
3. Freeze your credit or have it monitored.
Identity theft due to credit card and other data breaches has become a huge problem for the consumer. Simply go to the three credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax—and submit the required information to freeze your credit. This will prevent others, for the most part, from viewing your credit and opening accounts or taking out loans in your name. If you need to take out a loan or someone needs to review your credit you can always unlock it.
4. When using social media read and implement all privacy features.
Most social media services, which are free and make money from the sale of advertising, provide privacy features. Be cautious though since some social media providers like Facebook will change these features frequently, disabling your privacy, so you need to constantly check these settings.
5. Use an anonymizer when browsing.
There are many free add-ons you can use on your browsers, such as OpenDNS, Hotspot Shield, Hide My Ass, and others that can help to make your activity on the Internet untraceable.
6. Don’t use public Wi-Fi.
Public Wi-Fi at airports, hotels, coffee shops and other places is easily monitored by hackers and those seeking to steal information. A better option is to tether your phone to your computer or create a secure hotspot with your phone to which only you have access.
7. If necessary, use a VPN.
A virtual private network, or VPN, is like a tunnel for communications. If you are sending messages via email or other means and need to keep them secure, a VPN will allow you to do this.
8. Don’t put sensitive data in the cloud unencrypted.
Unless you are aware or receive a guarantee from whomever manages the cloud service that they have never and will never be breached, make sure you use encryption. Additionally, read all of the agreements before signing and make sure you know what the provider is responsible and liable for and what security they provide.
9. Use two-factor authentication.
Many providers, such as Google, offer this service. For example, as you log on and enter your username and password, a one-time code or pin is texted to your mobile device. Once you enter this code you are provided access. This provides another layer of security since a hacker or identity thief will not usually have access to your phone and receive the one-time pin texted to you.
10. Block third-party cookies.
Third-party cookies, similar to cookies, are placed on your browser by a website to track your browsing history and location to target you with ads. For instance, if a website you are viewing has a Facebook button, Facebook may attempt to install a third-party cookie. In order to disable third-party cookies and other unwanted services, review the settings on your browser. There are many options for you to customize.
11. Use a proxy or VPN to block your IP address and avoid location tracking from your browser.
As mentioned above, there are various apps, add-ons, and software you can use that will mask your IP address. Even though your IP address, in most cases, can only indicate what city you are in, blocking it will help avoid tracking and ads targeted for your location.
12. Use the “Do Not Track” (DNT) function available in some browsers.
Some browsers have disabled “DNT” as the default setting, but you can enable it. This does not mean websites cannot track you, but it tells them you do not wish to be tracked.
For 12 more tips on how to protect your privacy online and control data collection read the “Technology Offers Convenience, Privacy Pays the Price” white paper.