The Internet has eased your life in many ways. You can do a lot of things without needing to get out if you don’t want to. Ordering lunch, booking a cleaning service. You name it. However, you should not sacrifice your privacy. Services like Facebook, Google, to Amazon are always there to spy what you are doing on the internet. The purpose is quite clear, to provide ads based on your activity.
Facebook, Google, and Amazon are just examples. The vast majority of today’s services collect users’ data for marketing purposes. Some ask your consent, some don’t. While it is one of the consequences of using a free service, there are several things you can do to improve your online privacy. The most practical is by installing a VPN. If you are a Windows user, you can download VPN for Windows PC and install it to protect the entire apps on your computer.
7 ways to improve your online privacy
1. Check your social media privacy settings
In today’s age, social media is an integral part of our society. People use social media to communicate with friends, family members, teammates to following the recent activities of their idols. When creating a social media account, you are prompted to enter some personal information. Today, social media is the first go-to when someone wants to get to know someone else. Social media is the easiest way to get personal information about someone. To improve your online privacy, it’s strongly recommended to provide a minimum possible information to your social media profiles.
Not only your secret fans who take advantage of the personal information you provided. The social media platform you use does it too. A social media platform commonly uses information like age, interest, location, gender and so on as the targets of ads. Providing less personal information also lessens the risk over a data breach.
2. Regularly check your Google activities
Google knows a lot of things about you. It records every single activity on your Android phone and Google Chrome. That is why Google is always able to provide precise ads to you. To prevent Google from knowing too much about you, you can control what Google saves about you. You can prevent Google from saving your Chrome history, the videos you watch, your searches on YouTube, and so on.
You can control your activity from Google My Activity page. Click the Activity control tab to control what Google can save.
3. Keep your main email address and phone number private
Junk emails and robocalls are the common annoyance when you give you email address and phone number away. Well, it’s hard to not give your email address or phone number since most services today require that information for account creation. To improve your privacy, you can create a separate email address for social media accounts. If possible, you can also create a separate phone number.
Never share your email address and phone number to random people on social media.
4. Never save private data to a cloud storage
There are a lot of ways to share your data via the internet. However, you should not save sensitive data — such as a scan of your ID card or passport — to a cloud storage service like Dropbox. Also, you should not use Google Sheets or Google Docs to save a list of passwords. There is a better place to do so. If you are worried about your passwords when you use an online-based password manager, you can use an offline-based password manager like KeePass. Your passwords remain on your computer with KeePass.
5. Disable lock screen notifications on your phone
Keeping your online privacy is not only to prevent online services from knowing too much about you. You should also care about your privacy when you are hanging out at a coffee shop or any place you usually hang out. To improve your privacy in a public space, one of the things you can do is to disable the lock screen notifications. It will prevent a passerby from taking a peek at your screen.
6. Review permissions for mobile apps and browser extensions
Not just big services like Facebook, Google, and Amazon that want to collect your data. Technically, all internet-based tools and services need your information before you can use them. Some services even cannot work without certain permission access. For instance, you won’t be able to use a ridesharing app without granting permission to access your location. While the data you provided mostly used to allow an app you use to run, there are some services that use users’ data for marketing or even worse.
If you are not sure (or forgot) what kind of permissions you granted for an app, you can review it. On Android, you can go Settings -> Apps. Select an app you want to review its permissions. You can find the permissions you granted under the APPS SETTINGS section. Tap Permissions to revoke permission.
You can also review the permissions you granted to a browser extension. In Google Chrome, you can click the three-dot icon on the top-right corner and select More tools -> Extensions. Select an extension you want to check its permissions and click the Details button. You can see the permissions on the Permissions section.
Only install the extensions you really need to prevent over permission granting.
7. Use a VPN
As mentioned earlier, you can use VPN for an extra privacy setting. You can use a VPN especially if you run a business that needs private internet access. A VPN creates a virtual encrypted tunnel between your device and a VPN server. Thanks to this, no one can see (even the internet provider you use) what you are doing on the internet since your traffic is going via the encrypted tunnel created by your VPN. A VPN also allows you to access sites blocked by your government.
How to set up VPN in Windows
There are lots of VPN services out there. Surfshark is one of which. Surfshark is a multi-platform VPN that you can install on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS. You can also install it on Google Chrome and Firefox. If you want to use Surfshark on your Windows computer, you better install the Windows version instead of the Google Chrome or Firefox version. Installing the Windows version will protect all of the apps on your system while installing the Google Chrome or Firefox version will only protect your browser.
You can download Surfshark VPN from its official website. Once the binary file is downloaded (the EXE file), simply double-click to install it to your computer. Once installed, you can create a Surfshark account to start using it.