Online privacy refers to the level of protection a user has on their device while accessing the internet. The level of online privacy a user has is usually determined by how strong his/her cybersecurity measures are.
The growing increase in the activities of cybercriminals has created the need for continued awareness about online privacy. We’re in contact with strangers every day while using the internet, especially on group forums for people with similar interests, so relating with them should be how we relate with strangers in the real world.
Besides the conscious ways by which people endanger themselves online by sharing personal information with people online, the recent increase in the number of public and private companies that track user data is alarming.
Most browsers keep track of user search history, cookies, and User IP addresses, all of which make up the online persona of the user.
This policy is however non-negotiable, as people who are uncomfortable with not having control over how their data will be shared have to quit WhatsApp. While data protection laws in countries prevent WhatsApp from selling this data, in a case of a data breach by hackers, the personal information of people could be exposed, endangering their lives.
Below are some measures you can employ to secure your safety online:
Best tools to guard privacy online
One of the most guaranteed ways to ensure your privacy online is through Virtual Private Networks. VPNs encrypt your connection to any server, and even transmits your location as another to ensure you cannot be tracked. Using a VPN as a tool is essential to keep you private online.
- Web Browser Plug-ins
Many websites tend to track people’s online activity via cookies available on the webpages. Installing plug-ins on your device helps to block such activity, and delete the cookies once the website or browser is closed.
- Bookmark a Private Search Engine for Queries
When you realize just how much Google knows about you, you’ll be sure to get alarmed. Google records every single search query you’ve ever made and the chances are you’ve made at least a thousand search queries. In a way, it can be viewed from the perspective of asking your best friend numerous questions.
Google also controls Youtube which is a search engine for videos. A significant percentage of website owners also use one of Google Adsense or Google Analytics or both. As such, tracking your web activity becomes easy for the tech giant. It’s even worse for android users as they find it very difficult to keep their data from Google.
The first step to protecting your data from these companies’ hands is to switch to a private search engine. The most popular one for English users on the web is DuckDuckGo. Speakers of other languages can try out other privacy-oriented search engines though.
- Turn off Location Services on your Smartphone
To target you with ads properly, tech companies need to know your activity. It’s why they’re almost obsessed with tracking your location at all times. You may have noticed that you get served with ads related to places you visited in the days preceding the ad serving. That’s the way location-based adverts work.
Sometimes, these apps create ‘cool features’ to get you to divulge your location. For instance, some social networks ask you to switch on location services so you can connect with friends near you. Do not fall for this because they’ll pull every bit of locational data from you.
Imagine if the social networking company that holds your data gets breached. Your data would be passed between different entities for money. Your location can also affect the prices you see in an online shop because of dynamic pricing.
Simply turn off location services on your smartphone. Only switch it on when you need it for certain services like ride-hailing apps.
- Scrutinize Alternative Keyboard Services
For some reason, you might prefer to use a third-party keyboard service. In this case, you’ll have to make sure the keyboard is secure.
The reason is that a malicious keyboard app can log in the keystrokes made on your device. A privacy breach incident happened to AI.type, a third-party keyboard service. The data of at least 30 million users of the keyboard became up for grabs in the dark market.
Keyboards are also able to bypass super-tight security like encrypted messaging. Learn to manage the risks of using third party keyboards so your information remains protected.
- Webcam Covers
There are many disturbed people on the internet today, pedophiles, rapists, etc., who use online forums to scout for their next victim. To ensure the person fits into the profile, they hack the webcam of the user’s computer, illegally viewing their face and their surroundings. To protect yourself, always use screen and webcam covers unless when making use of the camera.
The online privacy topic is becoming heavily discussed in all areas of the tech sector. These companies use users’ data to track them and serve them with ads.
To protect your privacy online, you can use a VPN, check your third-party keyboard’s safety, turn off location services and use a private search engine.