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5 ways to protect your privacy online

Sahil Mathur

Irrespective who you are, if you own an email id, have Facebook, Instagram or Google Plus account; you have an online profile, a web based personality.

And if you are online chances are companies and organisations, government or otherwise have tracked your behaviour and have kept extensive records.

Online, your persona is built by combining two interrelated sources of information

  1. Your online behaviour tracked by a machine
  2. And the personal data that you choose to share

The data that machine tracks includes your purchase history, content that you read, data usage times, internet access times, URL’s visited, device location and everything that involves you connecting to the web or using a device connected to the web.

While the information that you share includes your birthday, name, usernames, friends, blocked numbers, address, physical features etc.

Both of these combined forms your online personality.

In this article we try to help you with methods that you can use to protect your data online.

Following are 10 ways you can protect your data from misuse,

Change your browser

Almost all the major browser and OS companies track your behaviour and this stands especially true for Google and the browser that you use i.e. chrome.

One of the best ways to begin protecting your identity is to change to a browser that doesn’t track you and the very least you can control what you share with the company.

Tor is the one we recommend, Tor is built for privacy and doesn’t share or capture your browsing information with anyone.

Another browser that you can look at is Firefox, it is highly configurable w.r.t privacy and makes tracking you browsing behaviour extremely difficult for companies.

Enable 2 factor authentication

Two-Factor Authentication takes account security one step further, it makes logging in harder for anyone trying to gain unauthorised access to your account.

Instead of usually just using a single password to access your account you are expected to enter a shortcode usually sent to your phone or email id. This means a hacker would have to first gain access to your number and personal email id before they can log into any of your other accounts.

Review your social media Privacy settings

Privacy settings of your social media accounts including Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter keep changing. It makes sense to atleast once in couple of months to revisit these settings to see who has access to you personal data via these sites.

Especially since we use our social media accounts to signup with companies on the web inadvertently giving them access to your profile information.

Use Stronger passwords

A recent study by Virginia Tech researchers found that most of us make the same mistake while setting up a passwords for our accounts. One of the major being using something personal like name of your favourite team or date of birth as the password for your accounts.

Though these passwords are easy to remember, these are easy for hackers who have access to your personal information to guess these too.

I recommend using pass phrases instead of passwords to protect your account, use any phrase with 15 or more letters including special characters in them and if possible use a password manager to manage, remember and suggest strong passwords.

Review permissions for mobile apps and browser extension

Mobile apps require permission to multiple services and hardware to function as expected but the fact of the matter is this access to information is also being used by companies to profile you and track your online behaviour, which then is used for marketing by these companies.

Though some mobile apps do require permission to your internal systems, you can actually control how much access these have. For example you can limit a mobile app or a browser extension from accessing your camera or internal storage.

The best way to protect your data online is to be mindful of what type of access permission are you allowing when installing or updating an app for your mobile or web browser.

In this article I have to tried to summarise the most common and easy to implement methods to protect your online data, though there exists no full proof way to do this as long as you use social media accounts or store your data in public storage. These steps would certainly make it harder for companies and individuals trying to access or use your personal data acquired online.

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