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6 things to do right now to strengthen your online privacy

Online privacy is particularly vital now since a whole lot of our work has been moved online as we grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown.

It’s important to not be apathetic when it comes to online privacy. While some of us have always been cautious about our online practices, most people are prone to making simple errors that could cause them irreparable harm.
It’s important to not be apathetic when it comes to online privacy. While some of us have always been cautious about our online practices, most people are prone to making simple errors that could cause them irreparable harm. (Pixabay)

We just marked Data Privacy Day on January 28. And how better to play for the cause than to take a fresh look at your own online privacy across online platforms you use everyday?

The main purpose of Data Privacy Day is to raise awareness about and promote privacy and data protection. This is particularly vital now since a whole lot of our work has been moved online as we grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown. While some of us have always been cautious about our online practices, most people are prone to making simple errors that could cause them irreparable harm.

“It’s important to not be apathetic when it comes to online privacy and to regularly look at how you can stay in control over your privacy and the personal data you share online, including on social media and apps that many Indians use every day,” said Shane McNamee, Chief Privacy Officer at Avast.

And since it’s always better to be safe than sorry, here are 6 simple steps, suggested by McNamee that you can follow to make sure your privacy is under your control when you go online:

1. Manage advertising

You can restrict what data advertisers use to target you on different social media platforms. Take a look at your privacy and advertising settings and make sure that you remove interests that any platform can use to target you (which you can do on Facebook and Twitter) and toggle off or remove any personal data that can also be used for ad targeting. You can also remove tracking and ad targeting off social media by turning off ‘Off-Twitter Activity’ on Twitter and removing ‘Ads Shown off of Facebook’ on Facebook.

2. Turn off location tracking

Location tracking and history, even location metadata in your photos, allow social media platforms and apps to track and catalogue your precise locations and then serve you personalised ads. A good privacy-protecting move is to turn off Location Services on your phone for all social media apps and your camera. If you have an iPhone, you can find this in Settings, Privacy, then Location Services. On Android, go to Settings, then Location to turn off Location Sharing, Location History and adjust location access for apps.

3. Don’t log in

On certain social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok, you don’t need to log in to view content. By choosing not to log in, it takes away a really big amount of data that they could potentially collect, such as your user journey through the network, including content you search and engage with, and ads you click on.

4. Revoke app and game permissions

Most people sign into other apps and websites with their Facebook or Google login details. While this is super convenient, it also gives those sites access to your data and gives Facebook more information about you. Through your Facebook settings you can revoke permissions or you can choose what data the apps and games you still use have access to - make the changes you need. 

5. Don’t click on ads

Many social media platforms and apps track not only which ads you click on but also how long you spend looking at them or swiping through them. If you don’t want social media platforms or apps to have information about your interests, then get in the habit of ignoring ads all together and don’t use the Shop feature you can find in Instagram and on Google, for example. If you see something that you like, you can search for it via your browser whilst using a VPN which makes it harder for third-parties to track your online activities.

6. Create a burner email address

If you’re going to truly take back some of your privacy, you can start from square one by creating a burner email address. A burner email — which is an email address that you only use for specific things and that isn’t linked to you elsewhere — makes it much more difficult for companies to track you. You can easily create one for free on Gmail, but just be sure not to link it to your main account. Even better, use a different email service than the one you usually use, so you don’t accidentally hook them up.

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