Define: Right to Privacy
1) The right not to have one’s personal matters disclosed or publicized; the right to be left alone. 2) The right against undue government intrusion into fundamental personal issues and decisions. (Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary)
Real World Privacy is EQUALLY to Digital Privacy
Shutting the curtain to stop prying eyes peaking into your home. Meeting with your therapist to discuss personal issues. Going to another room to talk about surprise plans for your friends birthday party. All of these are examples of real-world privacy that we naturally take part in. Just as we all respect personal privacy in the real world, digital privacy should be treated the same regardless of the current age of constant social media connection and sharing many elements of one’s personal life.
However, over the years we have learned the hard way the extent of privacy intrusion by companies and even governments on an individual’s digital privacy. Here are but a few examples:
- Privacy concerns are swarming around Zoom just as it’s becoming everyone’s new favorite videoconferencing app
- A timeline of Facebook’s privacy issues — and its responses
- More companies are using technology to monitor employees, sparking privacy concerns
- Yahoo scanned all of your emails on behalf of the NSA
- Vizio’s Smart TVs track your viewing habits and share it with advertisers
- Buyer Beware: Used Nest Cams Can Let People Spy on You
- Alexa privacy fail highlights risks of smart speakers
- Surveillance under the Patriot Act
This whole post could just be an endless resource of links to numerous articles about how the privacy of individuals has been intruded on without their knowledge. It took a long time for everyone to find out that data is highly valuable and can be used to directly target individuals. There is a growing need to stay private and anonymous Online in 2020 which is why I composed a simple list of ways you can start.
6 Tips to Keep you Private and Anonymous Online
1. Create new Social Media/Email accounts
If you don’t want people or businesses to know who you, what you’re interested in and how to target you directly then you need to create an alternative persona for your social media. Do this for ANY and ALL social media services you frequent to stay private and anonymous online. You don’t need to delete your personal one if you don’t want to. The idea is to create a new identity that is not linked directly to you.
Make sure to also use a new email account (you can use any service you wish). Don’t use anything that you have used before and make it SECURE by using a random password (useful method to generate randomized password).
2. Double-check ALL privacy settings.
Following this advice from Norton Security would be useful to ensure your apps are not taking too much data:
“Most apps offer privacy settings for users. This gives you the freedom to know how much and what kind of information is shared. Always choose the least amount of data sharing. Always be cautious when sharing your name and location. Turn off location services and deny access to your camera.
When it comes to social media, be sure to review your privacy settings. Most social media sites will give you options to select who you are sharing your information with. Be sure those settings are set for trusted individuals and friends, rather than set to public for the whole world to see.”
3. Keep track of your digital footprint and DELETE what you don’t want.
This is a hard thing to scrub away since whatever you post online is more than likely online forever. However, that doesn’t mean you should try to get rid of anything you don’t want out there anymore. Delete old accounts and posts you no longer want (each platform has different methods of how you do this, most of the time it’s quite annoying).
Remember, what you already have out now is tough to get rid of. Now is the time to have that paper-trail stop OR for you to minimize the extent of your digital footprint.
4. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to change IP address
Virtual Private Network (VPN) enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. A VPN allows you to browse the internet without the worry of being tracked by Google and other online businesses as your connection with be given an alternative IP address pointing to other locations.
Most VPN services sell the average person on the service by saying it can get you access to other countries streaming services (which is very true and quite useful if you wanna watch a movie that’s only available on Swedish Netflix). VPN can help you stay private and anonymous online during your everyday activity. Just make sure you choose the right VPN service as a few have been recently criticized for not being as secure as they say.
5. Stop using Google Search and Switch your browser to one that doesn’t take your data
Be aware that browsers like Google Chrome analyze your browsing data to better sell ads to businesses and then better target ads at you. Use a browser that is more privacy-focused such as Firefox, Brave, or TOR. Some of these browsers even have built-in features to help block tracking cookies and ads.
Switching your browser won’t be enough if you’re still going to use Google to do online searches. An article by Lifewire goes into detail on how much Google collects from users (even ones that aren’t signed in):
Here are a few examples of what Google collects from you (sourced from Lifewire article):
- Information that you give to Google — including personal information such as name, email address, phone number, credit card, and photos
- Information gleaned from the use of Google services — like data usage, personal preferences, emails, photos, videos, browsing history, map searches, spreadsheets, and documents
- Information from the device you’re using to access Google’s services — including hardware model, mobile network information (yes, this includes your phone number), and what operating system you’re using
- Server log information — collected from when you’re actively using their services, like search queries, phone information (time and date of calls, types of calls, forwarding numbers, etc.), IP addresses, cookies that are uniquely linked to your web browser or Google account, and device activity information (e.g., crashes, hardware settings, language)
- Location information — about where you are in the world, including your city, state, neighborhood, and approximate address
- A “unique application number” from peripheral services and apps — that provides more identifying information to Google when queried
- Your Google Search history — which includes personal information found in Google services like YouTube, Google Maps, and Google Images
- Your interactions with other sites and services — especially when you interact with ads
Cut your ties from Google and start using alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo and StartPage that are privacy-forward.
6. Make sure you use END-to-END Encryption services
End-to-end encryption is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages. This prevents potential eavesdroppers – including telecom providers, Internet providers, and even the provider of the communication service – from being able to access the cryptographic keys needed to decrypt the conversation.
This is vital to ensure that what you talk about stays between the active parties involved. Make sure your commutations apps have end-to-end encryption. Even though WhatsApp has these features, you can ensure that they are analyzing that data to help with their advertising. If you don’t trust Facebook (or any other big tech industry) then you need to find a different communication app such as Telegram or Signal.
Why should you care about Digital Privacy?
We all have the right to keep our online activity to ourselves without the prying eyes of anyone we don’t approve of. You wouldn’t let a stranger have a key to your home to come in anytime to rummage through your personal belongings to find useful information about you. Why is that any different than letting Google or Facebook having unlimited access to the information you put on the internet?
My advice shouldn’t stop you from using what you like to use online. The reason for this post is to inform you of what is being done with your online data and how you can take back control. You can be anyone online, so why let these giant businesses and governments know exactly who you are?
Stay private and anonymous online everyone.