Would you, just walk up to a stranger in public street and give him your home address and your full name?
Well, the Internet is like that. It provides a public channel where people unintentionally leave personal scattered data all around. And since the birth of social media and search engine content awareness, your online privacy got even more vulnerable.
In this post, we’ll go through five efficient ways to protect your online identity.
- Avoid Big Brother’s tracking and data collection.
- Keep your email address personal.
- Protect browsing and anonymity with the Tor browser.
- Disable location tracking from smartphones and browsers.
- Download content anonymously.
1.Avoid Big Brother’s Tracking and Data Collection.
“Data is the new oil”— this is a 100% true statement.
Nowadays, companies move and strategize only based on data. On the positive side — they apply AI algorithms to large data sets and can gain incredible insights, such as predictions and deep learning. But on the downside, they also use this information for business gains, such as targeted marketing, selling, media, etc.
Google, the most popular company on the Internet, knows a lot about you, probably more than you think. Tools such as Chrome, Google search engine, Google Maps, Android, and more, collect your personal data to tailor and target ads, especially for you.
But Google is not the only one keeping and tracking your online activity. Other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, are also known to have utilized your data, one way or another. Although most of these sites and search engines use your personal data to “enhance the user experience,” there have been some accusations that they sell it to third-parties.
What to do?
- Configure your browser. Your browser is the interface with the Internet. Configure it, so it doesn’t log your information. That means automatic removal of your browsing history, cookies, and cache. Bear in mind that changing some of these parameters will make your user experience worst, but it will improve your privacy.
- You can also try using other web browsers or other search engines. Opera’s incognito browser removes all browsed history, cookies, etc. DuckDuckGo is another excellent alternative. It is an internet search engine that emphasizes searchers’ privacy and avoids creating filters of customized searches.
2.Keep Your Email Address Personal.
Email is usually safe. The communication from end to end is encrypted, so it is hardly ever breached by outside attackers. But the problem with emails is again, the one providing the service, “email providers,” especially free ones, which are known to keep and use your data.
Although historically, there have been some cases where email providers use your registration data to craft and send you marketing emails, now there are many laws that protect you against that privacy breach.
Still, your email address information should be kept only for you. Random people can find your identity in social media only using your email. They can attempt first stage registration to any website, and worst of all, use it (or give it) to send you spam email.
Rules of email.
- Read through the email provider’s policy privacy. To give you an idea, this is Gmail’s policy privacy.
- Don’t publish (give) your email to random people in social networks.
- Don’t use the same email for sensitive IDs such as bank accounts, Paypal, or cryptocurrencies.
- Use two-factor authentication to protect your email privacy.
- Create a second, disposable email to use with online operations that require your email address such as shopping.
- Avoid using your name as an ID on your email. Email hunting software can find anybody’s email with a simple search of the email nameserver.
3.Protect Browsing and Anonymity with Tor Browser.
The Tor Browser is often incorrectly related to the Dark Web.
Instead, the Tor browser was built to provide full privacy protection and avoid the dreaded tracking. It uses the Onion Router (or Tor servers), which hides the user’s location, prevents traffic tracing, and promises full anonymity while surfing the web.
Should you access the dark web with Tor?
Although most dark web sites are associated with illegal and criminal activity, there are legitimate “friendly” sites that are only looking to avoid censorship or provide valuable research data. This hidden dark web allows users to spin up websites and communicate with each other with full anonymity.
Although the dark web can be safely accessed via the Tor browser, it is not recommended. There have been some cases of flaws found in the software that governments and agencies are using to track illegal activity.
How to remain anonymous with Tor Browser?
- The Tor browser can help you browse the “normal” web with full anonymity.
- Bypass any censorship.
- If you are still accessing the dark web, use a double hop connection such as a VPN or VPS over the Tor browser.
4.Disable Location Tracking from Smartphones and Browsers.
Location tracking wasn’t a reality until phones became “smart.” Again, enterprises like Google, Amazon, or Apple use your location data to craft advertising, precisely according to your region.
When you are trying to find a nearby restaurant, coffee shop, or pharmacy, your smartphone will grab the current GPS coordinate (from satellite, nearby Wifi or 3G/4G antenna cell) and interact with the application, in most cases Google Maps or Apple Maps.
If you let it, Google will keep a log of your location’s history. Google’s Location History will save the information given by Google Maps and show you all the places you have been historically!
What to do?
- Avoid Google and Apple to track and save your location history. Make sure “Location History” is off.
- Block HTML5 Geolocation. Smartphones are not the only ones tracking location, your desktop’s or laptop browser can also do it using HTML5 Geolocation. Browsers can automatically detect your location using HTML5 with Wifi’s geographical location. You can disable geolocation from all popular browsers.
5.Download Content Anonymously.
P2P (Peer-to-Peer) is one of the most popular ways to download content. P2P networks are formed by swarms of peers distributed across the world that share and receive bits of information. These networks are so effective that even enterprises such as Facebook use it internally to push updates to all their servers.
A disadvantage is that some of these P2P networks are open and use tracking servers to keep the IP information of all peers and the content. So, when you are downloading torrents, your public IP and other sensitive information are shown in plain sight.
Although P2P and torrenting are perfectly legal ways to download and upload content, they are widely used to download pirated content. So downloading directly from torrenting sites to your local computer puts your online anonymity at risk.
Additionally, torrenting traffic is frequently monitored by ISPs, copyright trolls, and government agencies. Once they detect this type of traffic, they are likely to either throttle your bandwidth, send you a DCMA letter, or a nasty fine.
What to do?
A great way to protect your online privacy when downloading content is to use a private server to upload and download these digital files. These servers are known as seedboxes, and they can also be used as VPN servers, stream media online, or download torrents daily.
- Get a VPS Seedbox.
- Connect to it via secured web admin.
- Download content to the dedicated remote server.
- Download it to your personal computer via secured FTP.
- Use other services such as VPNs and streaming.