Every day, we pay for the cost of digital convenience with our privacy. The currency, of course, is personal data. Sometimes, it’s a reciprocal transaction, like when we install a social media app on our phone. We install the app knowing that our information will be harvested, aggregated, and likely sold off to marketers and advertisers.
In other scenarios, the erosion of privacy is less obvious, like when governments quietly conduct mass surveillance on the population; or, at the other end of the scale, like when someone plugs in your USB drive and starts snooping through your vacation pics.
It’s easy to think that we’ve all but relinquished our right to privacy. But by making a few simple changes to your devices and rethinking how you interact online, it is still possible to maintain a good level of control over your privacy.
Here are five things you can do today to start taking control of your online privacy.
1. Secure Your Browser
How to Do It: Installing the following browser extensions can dramatically increase your privacy and reduce your online footprint.
- HTTPS Everywhere: Created by the Tor Project and Electronic Frontier Foundation, HTTPS Everywhere is an open-source browser extension that automatically makes websites use the more secure (encrypted) HTTPS protocol instead of HTTP. HTTPS Everywhere is available on Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.
- Emsisoft Browser Security: Emsisoft Browser Security protects your privacy by blocking access to phishing websites and websites that are known to distribute malware. Unlike many other security browser extensions, Emsisoft Browser Security does not send visited website addresses to the cloud for verification, which means it can’t see the websites you visit or track your online activity.
- uBlock Origin: uBlock Origin (not to be confused with uBlock) is an open-source content filter that is capable, among other things, of blocking ads and preventing them from collecting your data. The adblocker can easily be disabled if you want to support specific sites that you know are secure. uBlock Origin is available on all the major browsers, including Chrome, Chromium, Edge, Firefox, Opera, Pale Moon and older versions of Safari.
- Privacy Badger: Instead of blocking content based on lists, Privacy Badger uses heuristics to identify and automatically block invisible third-party trackers. Privacy Badger complements uBlock Origin nicely (provided uBlock Origin is running on default settings) and is available on Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Opera.
Why: Privacy and data management policies vary significantly between vendors. Many web-based tools will attempt to collect your data under the guise of providing a personalized experience, while some developers of free software will often try to recoup their costs by selling your data to third-party advertisers or bundling their applications with potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).
How: Before you use an online service or install software on your device, read the fine print to ensure you understand what you’re getting yourself into. Switching from your usual services to one of the more privacy-conscious solutions below can help you keep your data where it belongs.
- Private search engine: All the mainstream search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo and others, collect extensive amounts of user data to create detailed user profiles, which marketers use to create targeted ads that follow you around the Internet. The good news is that there are a number of search engines that don’t collect or share your personal information. DuckDuckGo is the most well known, but there are other options, including Qwant and Startpage.
- Private web browsers: You can take the use of private search engines one step further by using privacy-focused browsers. Mainstream browsers such as Chrome still collect information about your online activity. Privacy-focused browsers such as Brave block data-harvesting ads and trackers. If you access your social media accounts via your desktop browser, we recommend using a separate browser for those accounts, and another for your personal and business accounts.
- Privacy-conscious antivirus: While antivirus software plays a critical role in keeping your devices safe, some solutions are a little overzealous in how they protect your system. Some security solutions will automatically upload your files to the cloud for analysis, while others might decrypt encrypted web traffic to check that it’s safe. Take the time to look for a privacy-conscious antivirus solution that will handle your files responsibly, ethically and securely.
We know that some of these suggestions appear daunting but don’t worry, Yellowstone Computing is here to help! Give our experts a call at 715-669-6136 or stop by our office located at 219 N Washington St, Thorp today! Don’t miss next week’s issue as we continue to outline basic steps to help you secure your digital privacy in 2021!