Online privacy is an oxymoron. For example, there is an advertiser ID on your phone that should keep your location anonymous. Are you surprised it isn’t? Me neither. Tap or click here for steps to view and delete your advertiser ID.
It’s not always advertisers and Big Tech espionage. A stranger or someone you know may be poking around your accounts. Tap or click for a quick check on what you need to do to keep your Facebook, Google, and Netflix accounts safe.
Privacy is not a given. Here are five ways to take back as much as possible.
1. Everyone’s least favorite kind of cookie
You collect cookies when you surf the internet on your phone, computer or tablet. These pieces of data store information about the websites you visit. Cookies store your logins, personalization settings, advertising information and other details.
The advantage is that cookies save images and files and ensure that you do not have to log in every time you visit a site. But these cookies contain a lot of your data. Fortunately, you can delete cookies manually in a few steps.
Tap or click here to remove cookies from your phone. Click this link for steps to clear cookies from your computer’s browser.
Better yet, use Incognito mode. When you browse the web incognito, your browser does not store your history, cookies, site data, or information you enter into forms. It is doing save any downloaded files or bookmarks created during the session.
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Be warned: your ISP can still see your activity, as can a school or employer who provides you with Internet access or computer.
Press . to go incognito in Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge Ctrl + Shift + N (or Command + Shift + N on Mac). Tap or click three times, you should always browse incognito.
Start a VPN for even more privacy. A virtual private network, or VPN, is a layer of security between your devices and the Internet. It hides your IP address and your location. It also encrypts your data after you leave your device and travel to the website you are visiting.
Don’t even think about using a free VPN. At best, it will lack necessary privacy features and slow you down. At worst, it hides malware or tracks your information. My choice is ExpressVPN, the VPN I used before they sponsored my national radio show.
2. Your emails are a treasure trove of information
Just think of everything in your inbox. In the wrong hands, these digital messages can cause a lot of damage.
Encryption is a method of protecting your email from hackers, criminals and prying eyes. It’s a process of scrambling your email messages, so if hackers manage to intercept them, all they see is gibberish.
Big name email services like Gmail and Yahoo don’t offer end-to-end encryption. Encryption is difficult to implement and generally requires all correspondents to participate. The process is not end-to-end if your email uses encryption, but mine not. At some point, your message will be vulnerable.
If encrypting your emails is essential, you should switch to a secure service such as StartMail, ProtonMail, Mailfence, Tutanota, or Hushmail.
Using Gmail? You can send a confidential email. Email sent in confidential mode cannot be forwarded and you can choose whether to let a recipient use a passcode to read it. Tap or click here and scroll to #3 for steps to try it yourself.
3. Your apps see where you’re going
Your phone knows exactly where you’ve been for the past few days, weeks, and even months. If it’s been a while since you checked your phone’s location settings, do it now.
Check this hidden location setting on your iPhone:
- Click Settingsthen Privacy†
- Select Location Servicesthen scroll down to System Services†
- To elect Important locations to see where you have been and to turn it off.
Here’s how to adjust location settings on an Android:
- Open Settingsscroll down and tap Place†
- If you want to stop all tracking, you can switch between: Use location from†
- If you don’t want to remove all permissions, tap App Location Permissions†
- For each app, tap it to choose your preferred setting: Always allow, Only allow while using the app, Ask every time, or Don’t allow. You can also decide whether an app sees your exact location or an approximate location.
4. Your TV immediately looks back
Sorry to have to tell you. Your streaming services also track your activity. It is logical. Netflix, Hulu, and the rest want to know what shows you like so they can recommend content you like and don’t pay for.
However, the monitoring is not in your favor. Streaming services collect your viewing history and the ads you watch or skip. They then share this data with advertisers.
Tap or click here for a step-by-step guide to deleting your history on Netflix, Hulu, and more.
If you have a smart TV, you’ll have essential settings there too. Tap or click to prevent spying on Samsung, LG, Amazon Fire TV, or Roku TV.
5. Stop sharing everything you buy and browse
Google always seems to know exactly what you want, and it’s not in your head. Google tracks every search, click, message and request. Periodically clear your search history and activity. Here’s how:
- Go to myaccount.google.com and sign in. You can also go to google.com and click on the circle icon in the top right corner with your image or initials in it. Then click Manage your Google account†
- Click Data Privacy in the left menu.
- You’ll see check marks next to Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History. Click each to adjust your settings. Turn them on from to stop further tracking if you choose.
On these pages, you can also set up Auto-Delete for future activities. I highly recommend that you enable this. You can choose from 3 months, 18 months or 36 months.
Don’t stop there. Tap or click for more Google privacy settings that you can change now.
Do you want your late grandmother to read you a story? When Amazon’s new Alexa AI feature comes to life, you can clone dead voices. In addition, hackers are taking over hot tubs, Anna Sorokin is selling NFTs and the FBI is warning the FBI about crypto fraud on LinkedIn. You won’t believe how much money Big Tech companies make per minute.
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