The last 18 months have seen a significant shift in the way people work, communicate, and interact with technology. Lockdowns forced many companies to make the shift to working from home. Statista reports the number of employees working remotely jumped from 19% in 2019 to 44% during the pandemic. This has meant an increased reliance on teleconferencing tools such as Zoom and more time spent on our devices.
It’s not just working practices that have changed. Rising awareness of what Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff terms surveillance capitalism (and its reach) has prompted many users to reexamine how they approach digital services and how much data they share with big tech companies.
Some tech companies themselves are making adjustments to their practices, as witnessed by Apple’s latest iOS 14.5 update that allows users to opt-out of third-party tracking across apps. A move that Vox said “frustrated app developers and tech companies that have relied on the reservoir of user data for years.”
However, one change from one company does not mean a complete breakdown in mercenary data mining practices, far from it.
Ad Revenue Makes The Digital World Go ‘Round
Advertisers, including the likes of Google and Facebook, threaten your online privacy daily. They work hard to find out all about you to sell aggregated data sets to third-party advertisers.
From your browsing history and online activity to your location and contacts, this personal information is being used and sold to create targeted advertising in an attempt to influence the products you buy. Data is now the most valuable commodity on earth, and user privacy is sacrificed for it.
Have you ever wondered why you were talking to a friend about a product, and then you start seeing ads for that product everywhere? You may want to turn off microphone access across your apps. Or have you searched on Google for a product and then seen ads for the product in your Facebook newsfeed? You guessed it; the big tech companies have deals that allow them to pull these kinds of stunts. It’s annoying at best and highly concerning; how much influence should our phones, and by extension, major tech giants have on our “choices”?
Tools to Protect Your Online Privacy
With companies wanting to find out everything about you, staying secure in the face of this digital onslaught often feels like an overwhelming task. But taking a few basic steps can help keep your activity and data private. Let’s take a look at some of the tools available to help protect your online privacy.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
Virtual Private Server is a tool which allows users to connect to a special remote platform. The hosting server is usually located in a point which is convenient for all users from all continents. This service is being liked by users who want to have a stable connection and possibility to get a low ping on their sessions, for example VPS for traders is still one of the most crucial tools for getting more profit and less losses thanks to this service. Main advantages of VPS are connection speed, stability, and mobility, meaning you can access your VPS from any point of the World.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, could be the most important tool to employ to maintain your privacy. A VPN safeguards online privacy by encrypting data and shielding online activity, making it unreadable to anyone trying to access it.
There are hundreds of VPNs on the market, all with slightly different qualities, so finding the right one can be confusing. With reputable providers, you can often get a free VPN trial. This allows you to try before you buy and make sure that you’re happy with the interface, the speed, and that the VPN does exactly what you need it to do.
Using an encrypted messaging service is far more secure than using SMS for communication. However, it’s important to choose your provider carefully.
Luckily, there are plenty of other providers offering a secure messaging platform. Signal, Telegram, and Wickr Me are just some of the reputable companies that employ better privacy policies than WhatsApp.
Continuing to Use WhatsApp?
It’s difficult to imagine all of WhatsApp’s two-billion-plus customers switching to another provider. If you decide to stick with WhatsApp, you can take a few simple steps to help protect your online privacy, such as turning off live location in chat, not using it for group calls or chats, and hiding your “About” information.
Browser plug-ins are another simple tool to protect your online privacy by deleting cookies or blocking trackers and ads. Here are a few of our favorite browser plug-ins.
Cookie AutoDelete lets you control tracking cookies by automatically deleting unwanted ones from closed tabs while still allowing you to keep the cookies you need.
One of the most powerful ad blockers available is uBlock Origins. This popular plug-in is popular thanks to its efficiency at blocking unwanted content to allow for a faster and more secure browsing experience.
Available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, HTTPS Everywhere automatically forces every website you visit to load in its secure HTTPS version.
Privacy Badger prevents third-party trackers from monitoring online activity. When Privacy Badger detects tracking from the same advertiser across multiple websites, it blocks them from loading content within the browser.
Alternatively, consider making the switch from Chrome to a browser that prioritizes privacy, such as Firefox from the non-profit organization Mozilla, or uses Tor. You may also switch to a search engine such as Duck Duck Go that does not actively harvest your data and activity as Google does.
Webcam and Screen Covers
Used for everything from selfies to video calling, a camera is one of the most useful gadgets built into today’s smartphones. It’s also a gateway for cybercriminals to invade your privacy through camfecting. By taking over the camera, hackers can control the camera and record video or take photos which they then use to blackmail victims.
And it’s not just smart devices. Laptops and computers with built-in webcams are also susceptible to camfecting. Webcam covers and smartphone screen covers are simple ways to prevent your camera or webcam from being used against you. Can’t afford a cover? No problem. Taping a colored tab of paper over the lens works just as well at preventing someone from spying on you.
Although not everyone wants to invade your privacy, there are plenty of cybercriminals and legitimate companies that do. Invest in these handy tools and digital products and keep your personal data private.
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