We live in an age where Internet access is practically a given at all times. And while this has numerous benefits and has made life much more convenient, it comes at a hefty price – it is much, much easier to transmit and access information, which is not always good for your privacy.
You’ve probably seen it yourself – for example, you need a new couch so you run a quick Google search to look at some models, and for the next few days or even weeks, your social media pages are flooded with ads about couches. This is because your Google search results are not exactly private and social media websites have access to them in order to provide you with personalized ads, using an analytics AI.
This is just one example of how the Internet compromises your privacy, there are many more, but today I’d like to touch on how you can protect your Internet privacy as much as possible, and what are the best practices in order to do so.
Online privacy is tightly knit with your online security, and the best way to stay secure online is definitely Two-Factor Authentication. This is a system that requires you to input a one-time code every time you log into any of your online accounts. There are several ways you can receive this code: via SMS, to your email address or through an Authenticator app, and some services even provide you with a bundle of codes that you can save locally, or write them down on a piece of paper.
By doing this, even if you have your password stolen, the compromiser will *not* be able to access your account without having this code, and the chances of them getting it are close to none.
Of the aforementioned methods, the most secure is definitely the physical codes (also sometimes called “backup codes”, since they’re used to access your account as a backup in case you lose access to the source of your 2FA), with the Authenticator app as a close second. SMS codes and email codes are considered less secure because these can be much more easily compromised from a remote location.
Always Read the Terms of Service
Almost every online service has some form of terms of service agreement, They’re legally required to gain your consent in order to collect your information and store it in their system, even the most basic information such as your username and password.
However, the terms of service are usually packed with much more worrying information, such as the user agreeing to have their information used in email marketing campaigns and for advertising purposes.
If you don’t want this, it’s always good to at least skim through the terms of service, and if possible, reading it in detail is of course even better. Not all businesses will have the same terms, and once you agree to them they’re legally allowed to proceed with everything you’ve agreed to. Always make sure to know what a company does with your information, and reading the TOS is the best way to do that.
Utilize a VPN
It’s a fact that your online searches and traffic get tracked, often even by your ISP themselves. If you want to prevent this, the best way to go about it is to tunnel your connection through a virtual private network. A VPN can be used to encrypt your connection and make it unreadable for a third party, which will prevent an analytics AI from collecting your information and feeding it to social media websites, so if nothing else you’ll most definitely avoid those often annoying personalized ads.
If this is something you’d like to do, be sure to choose from one of the best VPN in 2019 and start taking your privacy into your own hands.
Multiple Email Addresses & Phone Numbers
One of the easiest ways to compromise your online security and privacy is to use the same email address for every website or online service you sign up for. This will not only riddle your inbox with spam and useless announcements from someone you’ve subscribed to years ago, but it can also be very dangerous if an unauthorized party happens to gain access to your email address. They will then be able to reset your password for each of your accounts, and it will be very difficult to do any sort of damage control in this situation.
Instead, it’s best to have a primary and secondary email address. Your primary email address should be used for your most important accounts – like bank accounts, work-based accounts or anything else that is very valuable to you.
Your secondary email address should be used for everything else you sign up for online – forums, blogs, social media profiles and the like. In other words, anything non-essential that won’t produce serious consequences should the email address be compromised.
Same goes for phone numbers, as those can be stolen as well with the right tools and through social engineering tactics. Set yourself up with a cheap, old phone with a separate SIM card, and use that one if you need to complete your online profile with a phone number, instead of your main one.
Online privacy is definitely a major concern, and as the Internet grows and evolves it will become an even bigger problem. Therefore, it is definitely a good idea to start doing something about this as soon as possible, and by following the aforementioned tips, you’re definitely on the right path!