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Protect Your Privacy Online With These 5 Expert Tips

Worried about your personal data?
by Ara Eugenio
3 hours ago
Photo/s: shutterstock

Pandemic aside, there's another war being fought at the moment, one that you may be unaware of despite it having everything to do with you, dear internet user.

The pitfalls of existing in the world wide web have gradually revealed themselves in the last few years, as news of massive data breaches revealed how much more is at stake in the sale of personal user data.

If you're not paying for the product, you are the product, Netflix's Social Dilemma tried to remind the world in 2020, just in time for big tech's privacy wars.

On one hand, there's Apple with its new strong stance on how consumers shouldn't have to make the trade-off between great features and privacy. While on the other side, app developers led by Facebook are fighting for the preservation of their advertising models. 

But as these internet giants take their time dealing with their own reckoning, at the end of the day, regular people are caught in between.

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So is there anything you do for now to protect your privacy better?

Neuroscientist Don Vaughn who is the product head of Invisibly, an online platform that enables people to take back control of their personal information and even make money from it, shared the following tips.

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Get a VPN

In some cases, people and companies can spy on what websites you’re visiting, where you’re located, and your computer’s identification number. You can stop them by using a VPN (virtual private network), which protects your information and makes it look like you’re browsing using a computer somewhere else. He recommends using ExpressVPN or Norton Secure VPN.

Use a private search engine

Google makes money by tracking you, collecting as much information as possible on you, and then sells your attention using ads based on that. But you can still get great search results without being tracked and targeted by using a private search engine.

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Consider using DuckDuckGo.

Tune up your privacy settings

Everytime you use products like Facebook and Google, you leave a data trail about yourself. Most companies let you choose what should or should not be shared and others even let us choose what data should be deleted. You can actually manage your privacy settings through your Facebook settings page.

From the settings page, if you click on “privacy”, you can limit who can find you via your phone number and email address and whether or not your profile shows up on search engines. Additionally, you can stop sharing your location with Facebook in your phone’s settings.

On Google, you can delete your activity on some associated Google apps by following these instructions.

Have a Backup "Public" Email or Unsubscribe From Unwanted Emails

When you provide your email address to a company or service online, many times you end up being bombarded with marketing emails and spam. While many services offer an opt-out checkbox for marketing emails, it's easy to forget to do this everytime you enter your email online. Somewhere at the bottom of most marketing emails you have the ability to unsubscribe and stop receiving them.

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If you don’t want to deal with this, he suggests having a separate email address to use publicly on the web and keeping a more personal email address for private use. If you use a bulk unsubscribe email service, make sure you are using a safe service. Some free services could collect and sell your data. If you are willing to pay for such a service, Clean Email is safe and does not sell their user’s data.

Check Permissions

Most apps and browser extensions have a list of permissions that you sign off on when you start using that service. Sometimes, permissions are required for a service to work (e.g. A GPS or Maps app needs to access your location data to work). By double checking the permissions an app has access to, you could be stopping an app from accessing certain data it doesn’t have to access.

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Similarly, if you have smart speakers at home such as a Google Home or Amazon Alexa, you can control if they store any of your audio recordings and if they send them to their server. You can also control other privacy settings and permissions with these devices. Check out privacy control for Amazon Alexa here and for Google home here.


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