The more you can do to protect your online privacy, the less likely you'll have any fallout if you are the victim of a data breach. You're also less likely to wind up with your account being hacked. But it goes beyond that. You also don't want big data companies knowing everything you're doing online. You don't want them being able to figure out what products you've bought recently or even what search terms you used. Beyond that, there is also the problem of thieves who will try to figure out when people are away and rob people's homes.
If you want to have more privacy but are feeling overwhelmed and don't know where to start, don't worry! You're in the right place. Here we cover some easy privacy habits you can create which are not intrusive in your everyday life but which make all the difference from a privacy standpoint.
- Conduct as much of your social life in real life as possible, or via text messaging. Do not invite people to events via Facebook.
- Use a Garmin or other product for GPS directions when driving. Do not use your phone for this. Sure, now Garmin knows where you are, but at least it's not your phone provider, Google, Apple or anyone else who additionally knows what you've searched for or what you've bought recently.
- Do not use Google or Bing as your search engine unless you really feel the privacy trade-offs are worth it. Instead use DuckDuckGo or another privacy-oriented search engine. If you must use Google or Bing, consider using it only for certain searches and use DuckDuckGo for the remainder. Splitting your searches across several search engines anyway ensures that no single one of those know everything you've searched for.
- Don't take your phone everywhere with you, that way your phone's location and your location will become two different things. Can you leave your phone at home for that 5-minute errand? Or if that's not realistic, at least turn your phone off for occasional periods of time when you're out and about. Do this especially when it might cause large jumps or gaps in your location data. Sometimes I turn mine off in the middle of a journey for exactly the purpose of not wanting my location to be tracked.
- Don't purchase everything online from one major store. For example, don't immediately go for Amazon for all of your home products. Instead buy some of your items from other stores. Walmart and Target can often be cheaper for certain items anyway. This way, no one company knows what the majority of your home purchases are.
- Passwords - we know it's hard to have unique passwords everywhere. At minimum, your email account(s) should have unique passwords that are not used elsewhere. Change this password periodically. That way if you're the victim of a data breach elsewhere, at least hackers can't use that password to get into your email account. This is a bigger deal than it first might seem, because if they gain access to your email account they can ask for your banking password to be reset and get into your bank account that way, for example.
- If you do re-use the same passwords on certain accounts, instead create easy-to-remember variations for different sites so that you've got unique passwords that you won't forget. This is easier than it sounds; we recommend the step-by-step guide in this Lifewire article.
- Consider deleting Facebook and other social media where you use your real name. If this is unreasonable for you, then at the very least use it only your computer (not your phone) and log out of Facebook and other social media whenever you're not using it. That way they can't track your other actions on the internet.
- Even if you still use Facebook, consider joining privacy-oriented social media like Diaspora or MeWe. You may eventually find that you're not using other social media as much. Of course, if everyone you know is on mainstream social media you probably will still use that a lot, but you could suggest to people you know in real life to join you on Diapsora or MeWe.
- Have a secondary email address that you use for signing up for newsletters, etc. That way clutter is reduced in your main email, plus, you have more privacy where you're not using the same email address across a bunch of online services. For free email services to use for this, we recommend GMX Mail and Tutanota.