Worried about how much of your private information is on the internet and vulnerable to theft or misuse? You’re not alone. Online privacy is an important issue.
But there are steps you can take to help manage and protect your financial and personal information while you visit your favorite social media, news, and entertainment sites.
Here are some ways you can boost your online privacy.
1. Limit the personal information you share on social media
A smart way to help protect your privacy online? Don’t overshare on social media. Providing too much information on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram could make it easier for cybercriminals to obtain identifying information, which could allow them to steal your identity or to access your financial information.
For example, could an identity thief determine your high school mascot or your mother’s maiden name from digging through your Facebook account? This information is sometimes used as security questions to change passwords on financial accounts.
To protect your online privacy, ignore the “About Me” fields in your social media profiles. You don’t have to let people know what year or where you were born — which could make you an easier target for identity theft.
Explore different privacy settings, too. You might want to limit the people who can view your posts to those you’ve personally invited.
Create strong passwords, too, for your social media profiles to help prevent others from logging into them in your name. This means using a combination of at least 12 numbers, special characters, and upper- and lower-case letters.
2: Do not browse or visit URLs that put cookies on your computer.
They can easily visit URLs of questionable origin and disguise it as a local web link. With the click of a button, they can take you to a site that will install the cookie virus on your computer.
What do you do about this? First, you need to be careful about the links you click. If you are on an internal web site, you should not click a link like “Mail”, but rather should click the “Parental Controls” link next to it.
Once installed, you have to use the parental control module to help block questionable sites. If this can’t be done, then use an alternate browser.
3: Keep your browser updated.
Don’t be scammed by websites that ask you to download software. Do not download them. What are you going to download? An application that can let someone access your computer? Never.
Whenever you get a browser hijacker, it can possibly replace the whole interface of your browser. When this happens, you may not be able to uninstall it. Instead, you’ll have to make it more difficult for people to hijack your browser. This means changing up the home page, perhaps with a different name, so people know you’re not actually going to give them access to your computer.
4: Protect your device with security software
While you’re never completely safe from malware and hackers, using a little wireless security software will keep your information protected. So make sure that your laptop is equipped with the highest level of protection.
If you will be using your laptop in the lounge area, or in the living room TV room, make sure that there is a screen over the keyboard that someone can’t see. This keeps your computer secure from anyone who might be looking at it when you’re typing away.
The same is true when you’re on the phone. Don’t leave your conversation room phone on the desk next to your computer. This is another way that malware can be tempted to enter your computer. When you’re using the computer, make sure that they are using a password protected screen – and that you know how to lock it up when you’re done using it.
5: Don’t go public with your problems
Internet security is a never-ending process. The media is often not entirely reliable when it comes to reporting the status of online threats. If you’ve been having problems with a particular site, or getting a particular file, it is better to make it as private as possible.
This is the sense of it being public knowledge that you can’t really turn off. In other words, make sure that if you’ve been having issues with someone, that you don’t want to come across as being confrontational. In some cases, when people confront an online bully, the bully can get very upset and retaliate in kind severe ways. Doesn’t seem very nice, does it? So the best thing to do is keep your problems to a minimum and then move on. You won’t be able to fix the problem if you keep bringing it up.
6. Browse in private mode
If you don’t want your computer to save your browsing history, temporary internet files, or cookies, do your web surfing in private mode.
Web browsers offer their own versions of this form of privacy protection. In Chrome, it’s called Incognito Mode. Firefox calls its setting Private Browsing, and Internet Explorer uses the name InPrivate Browsing for its privacy feature. When you search with these modes turned on, others won’t be able to trace your browsing history from your computer.
But these private modes aren’t completely private. When you’re searching in incognito or private mode, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can still see your browsing activity. If you are searching on a company computer, so can your employer. The websites you visit can also track you.
So, yes, incognito browsing does have certain benefits. But it’s far from the only tool available to help you maintain your privacy while online.
7. Beware of phishing.
Not all attacks on our security come through malware or hackers invisibly breaking into your account. It’s common that we’re tricked into handing over our passwords or personal information to bad actors.
These attempts can happen via email, text message or a phone call. And generally they’re trying to get your username and password, or perhaps your Social Security number. But there are often signs that these messages aren’t legit – spelling or grammar errors, links to websites other than the one it should be linking to, or the email is coming from a weird domain.
If it feels fishy, it might be phishing.
8. Turn off ad personalization.
Whenever possible, Mitchell recommends going into your settings and turning off ad personalization, which often gives companies permission to do invasive tracking.
Opting Out Of Ad Personalization On Some Major Platforms
Google and Android
Here’s a link to limit ad personalization on Google and Android.
This page shows you how to opt out of ad personalization on Apple. As of this writing, it hasn’t been updated for iOS 14. If you have updated to iOS 14, go to Settings > Privacy > Apple Advertising > turn off Personalized Ads.
- On this page, you can go to the ad settings tab and toggle the settings to not allowed.
- This page has steps to disconnect your activity off Facebook that is shared with Facebook, and clear that history.
- On the Off-Facebook activity page, under What You Can Do, you can click on More Options > Manage Future Activity > and toggle it to off. (This page has those steps.)
This page explains how to opt out of ad personalization.
He also recommends going to myactivity.google.com and deleting everything you can. On the left, there’s a tab that says “Delete activity by.” Select “All time.” On your My Google Activity page, you can turn off Web & App Activity, Location History and YouTube History.
“It will show you every search term and everything you’ve ever done, every YouTube video you’ve ever looked at, all that stuff,” he says. “It’ll say, are you sure you want to delete this? ‘Cause if you delete this, it might affect some stuff.” Mitchell says: Delete it.