15 Ways to Protect Your Privacy Online
As the world becomes increasingly digitized, it's more important than ever to protect your privacy online. Here are 15 ways you can do just that.
Jun 7, 2022
Cybercrime has nearly doubled year-over-year, with no end in sight. And while you may think you have nothing to hide, your personal information is constantly being collected and used without your knowledge or consent.
Even if you're not worried about the government snooping on your online activity, there are plenty of other ways your privacy can be compromised.
Here are 15 simple ways you can take to protect your privacy online.
1. Use end-to-end encryption
End-to-end encryption is the most effective way to keep your communication private. When end-to-end encrypted, only the sender and recipient can read the data – not even the service provider can access them.
Invented by cryptographer Phil Zimmermann in the 1990s, end-to-end encryption is now used by millions of people around the world to protect their privacy. The way it works is fairly simple: When you send a message, it is encrypted on your device before being sent to the recipient. The recipient then decrypts the message on their device.
This process means that even if someone was able to intercept your communication, they would not be able to read it.
2. Use a VPN
A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts all of the traffic flowing to and from your device and routes it through a server in another location. This makes it much more difficult for anyone to track your online activity.
First created in 1996, VPNs have become increasingly popular in recent years as more and more people are looking for ways to protect their privacy online.
There are several important considerations when it comes to VPNs. For one, some collect logs of user activity, so it’s important to choose a reputable provider that has a strict no-logs policy. Additionally, free VPNs often have data limits and slower speeds, so it’s worth considering a paid subscription.
3. Use Tor
Tor is a free, open-source software that enables anonymous communication. It routes traffic through a network of volunteer servers, making it much more difficult to track any one user.
Tor is often used by journalists and activists working in countries with repressive regimes as it makes it very difficult for anyone to censor or block the traffic.
The trade-off is that because Tor encrypts and bounces your traffic through multiple servers, it can be slower than other methods.
4. Use a secure browser
Your web browser is one of the most important tools you have for keeping your privacy intact. Unfortunately, most browsers are not nearly as secure as they could be.
One of the best ways to protect your privacy is to use a secure browser like Brave. These browsers come with a number of features that are designed to protect your privacy, including built-in ad and tracker blockers.
5. Use two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an extra layer of security that requires you to input a code from your phone in addition to your password when logging into an account.
This makes it much more difficult for someone to hack into your account, even if they have your password.
2FA is an incredibly effective way to protect your online accounts, and it’s become increasingly common in recent years. Google, Facebook, and Twitter all offer 2FA, and it’s a good idea to enable it on any accounts that contain sensitive information.
6. Use a password manager
One of the weakest links in your online security is often your password. Reusing passwords across multiple accounts is incredibly common, but it’s also one of the easiest ways for hackers to gain access to your sensitive data.
7. Be careful what you click on
Phishing is one of the most common ways for hackers to gain access to your accounts. It involves tricking you into clicking on a malicious link, usually by masquerading as a legitimate website or company.
Once you click on the link, you’re taken to a website that looks identical to the real thing, but is actually designed to steal your login information.
If you’re ever unsure about a link, don’t click on it. And if you’re asked to input your login information on a website, make sure you’re positive it’s the legitimate site before doing so.
8. Keep your software up to date
One of the simplest, but most effective, ways to protect your privacy online is to keep your software up to date.
Operating system updates often include security patches that close vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers. By keeping your software up to date, you’re making it much more difficult for anyone to gain access to your sensitive data.
9. Use a secure search engine
When you use a search engine like Google, all of your search queries are logged and stored. This means that if someone were to gain access to your account, they could see everything you’ve ever searched for.
Fortunately, there are a number of alternative search engines that don’t track your searches. Some of the most popular include DuckDuckGo and Startpage. That said, these should be used in combination with other privacy tools.
10. Avoid public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is incredibly convenient, but it’s also one of the least secure ways to connect to the internet.
When you connect to a public Wi-Fi network, all of the data flowing to and from your device is unencrypted and can be intercepted by anyone else on the network. This includes everything from your browsing history to your login information.
If you must use public Wi-Fi, be sure to connect to a VPN first. This will encrypt all of your traffic and make it much more difficult for anyone to snoop on your online activity.
11. Check the privacy settings on your social media accounts
Most social media sites collect a staggering amount of data on their users. And while you may not mind sharing some of this information with your friends, you probably don’t want advertisers and other third parties to have access to it.
Most social media sites offer a number of privacy settings that allow you to control who can see your information. Be sure to take the time to adjust these settings to your liking.
12. Use ad blockers and tracker blockers
Ads and trackers are ubiquitous on the internet, and they’re often used to collect data on your online activity.
Ad blockers and tracker blockers are browser extensions that block these ads and trackers from loading. This not only protects your privacy, but also improves your browsing experience by making pages load faster and reducing the risk of malware.
13. Pay attention to the permissions you give apps
When you install a new app, it will often ask for permission to access different parts of your device. It’s important to take the time to read these requests and decide whether or not you’re comfortable with them.
For example, if a weather app is asking for access to your location, it’s probably because it needs this information to function properly. But if a note-taking is asking for the same thing, it’s likely because it wants to collect data on your whereabouts.
In general, it’s best to only give apps the permissions they absolutely need to function.
14. Read the terms and conditions
It’s easy to click “agree” when presented with a long and complicated terms of service agreement, but it’s important to take the time to read these documents before doing so.
Terms of service agreements are often full of legalese, but they usually contain a number of clauses that give companies permission to collect and use your data in ways you may not be comfortable with.
By taking the time to read these agreements, you can make sure you’re only agreeing to terms that you’re comfortable with.
15. Educate yourself and stay up to date
The best way to protect your privacy online is to educate yourself on the latest threats and how to avoid them. Hackers are constantly coming up with new ways to steal your data, so it’s important to stay up to date on the latest security threats.
These are just a few of the many ways you can protect your privacy online. By taking these steps, you can keep your information safe and avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.