It seems data breaches are happening more often than not at the moment. But the good news is big tech companies the likes of Apple, are starting to take consumer privacy more seriously. That said, we can’t rely solely on these companies to keep us safe online. Just like we can’t expect the police to spring out of nowhere whenever we’re in need, a little bit of self-preservation needs to occur, so, here are five tips from Invisibly’s Dr. Don Vaughn, Ph.D, to help ensure you’re doing all you can to stay safe online.
1. 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. We recommend ExpressVPN or Norton Secure VPN.
2. 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. We recommend using DuckDuckGo.
3. Tune up your privacy settings
We leave a data trail about us every time we use products like Facebook and Google. Most companies let us choose what should or should not be shared and others even let us choose what data should be deleted.
You can 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.
4. 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 every time we enter our email online.
Somewhere at the bottom of most marketing emails you have the ability to unsubscribe and stop receiving them. If you don’t want to deal with this, we suggest 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.
5. 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.
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.