10 tips to take care of your online privacy

Why do we need to worry about online privacy?

Today’s technology makes the storage space for huge amounts of information very cheap: you can save your travel photos in Google Photos, iCloud or simply on an external hard drive that anyone can afford and fits in a backpack pocket.

Therefore, we ordinary people keep gigas and gigas of personal information in the form of photographs, videos, emails, audios, personal diaries, chat history, notebook of professional notes, agendas, bibliography gathered after years of study, etc.

30 years ago, childhood photos normally went through a photographic roll, were revealed and printed on paper. Doesn’t matter how many albums your family has gathered in the past, there will never be as many photos as those that the parents of the 21st century store of their children.

Is all that information safe?

Not necessarily. Maybe today the photos are not exposed to humidity or physical deterioration, but they are vulnerable to accidental removal, espionage or viruses.

That’s why I leave you some tips you should not ignore in order to keep your personal information safe.

Tips to protect your online privacy

Update the operating system and apps in your devices

One of the main reasons why a software is updated several times after its initial launch is to cover security breaches. A mobile application or a PC or Mac program is exposed to many computer threats, and they begin to reveal vulnerabilities right after their appearance, sometimes with very serious consequences.

For this reason, development teams that work on operating systems and applications continue to work on the same product a little longer, even when it does not substantially change its functionalities or design.

Beware of suspicious e-mails and bargains.

How many times have you received an email with such a tempting promotion that it doesn’t seem true? Or a message forwarded by hundreds of people that promise you money or success if you continue the forwarding chain? Or an email notifying that you have won a raffle that you did not know that existed and just by clicking on the link you will see where to pick up the high-end Smartphone or the prize car?

We have all received these emails. Some are even harmless. But in those messages usually classified as SPAM, serious threats that can enter your machine are hidden, using mechanisms such as the reverse tunnel, with the aim of accessing or “hacking” your data.ccessing or “hacking” your data.

Be careful with your passwords

An indispensable measure to guarantee your online privacy is taking special care while managing your passwords. I will give you some tips.

  • The most common passwords in the world are «password» and «123456». Also frequent are combinations of names, dates of birth or data of the couple and the children.
  • To have a strong password, avoid those common places. And exclude any element related to your public and personal life (date of birth, identification document number, etc.)
  • Use long keys, of more than 12 characters, that include letters and numbers, upper and lower case letters, and symbols.
  • It is also advisable to use password generating services such as LastPass. If you only access that app or service of your browser, you’ll already have control of different and self-generated passwords extremely difficult to guess by hackers and software specialized in the subject.

Review the configuration of social apps regarding data privacy

Many social networks have been questioned by practices that disrespect the right to privacy of users. Consequently, its rules and policies are constantly changing to adapt to new and changing legal requirements.

Every time they make a change, the platform must notify you. Never leave a text about changes in the service unread: these are usually long and dense, but include information about how your data is used and what aspects of your profile settings you can change to achieve maximum privacy.

In addition, you must enter the app or website configuration regularly. So you can find out what possibilities of restricting the use and visibility of your personal information are there and adapt it to your needs.

Avoid storing sensitive information on outside servers

Many have been the scandals for publishing, let’s say, compromising photos of a person. There is even a term: «revenge porn», and is unfortunately common among people who are or have been a couple.

 The best way to avoid this, infallibly, is not to trust that kind of pictures to technology megacompanys servers. If you send it by Messenger, Facebook has it. And it does not mean that they will publish it; but Edward Snowden showed that, by becoming a «person of interest» for counterintelligence services, … those agencies can see it.

Having such sensitive information on devices connected to the Internet and constantly synchronizing with the cloud (or with many clouds), is dangerous. If you still want to keep for yourself extremely sensitive data, then create the files on disconnected devices, delete them before connecting to the Internet, and save them in small storage devices as flash memories with encryption.

Use messaging apps with end-to-end encryption.

Some messaging apps use more advanced message encryption techniques than others. For example, WhatsApp uses “end-to-end” encryption which a priori makes it more secure than Messenger in regard to data privacy.

However, it is still an app belonging to the Facebook group, where it plays by the same rules of the Zuckerberg company concerning online privacy. Despite having promised to do otherwise when they bought it. Facebook can access information through WhatsApp: maybe what you say is encrypted but to whom you say it or to which group you write it are data that can be exchanged between services.

Common lists about the safest messaging apps include Wickr, Viber, Signal (this is recommended by Edward Snowden) or even Telegram. If you feel that your chat should be more private, try one of these variants.

Avoid the tracking, whenever its possible.

The websites you visit are constantly asking your device for information about you: name, location, IP address. Therefore, when you do a Google search from your phone, this company knows that you are interested in buying dress shoes or that you are investigating the impact of climate change on the Mediterranean coast.

It is increasingly difficult to prevent technology companies from finding out that kind of information, but there are a couple of things you can do. One is to use your browser’s private tab (Chrome, Firefox and others have it). Thus they put a barrier between the website and the information that your device gives it.

Also, to search, you can use services whose policy is less «intrusive» than Google’s. This is the case of the DuckDuckGo search engine, which claims not to keep any of your information when providing the service. Of course, as he knows less about you and is also a modest service … you will see that it is much less intuitive and comfortable.

Use reliable services to store your data

Think about the characteristics of the service and its user privacy policies before leaving very sensitive information about your person on their servers.

There will be many things you wouldn’t be against sharing it on Instagram or Twitter. That trust is not bad: we live in a society where the fact of being a public figure quickly becomes an acknowledgment and even a way to earn a living (if you don’t believe me, look at the influencers). But, for other types of data, beyond your opinion about a subject or your pet’s photo, you may think about it twice and maybe right now you are looking forward to a web service that really respects your data. Stay on top of the news and maybe something new will come out, something that’ll meet all your expectations about the care and protection of personal data.

What about you? Do to take care of your online privacy? If you have a good advice to share, this is the place and time!

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Gabriela M. Fernández

Journalist with a vocation, doesn't lose hope of learning how to program. Hardcore cinephile, TV-show and technology addict... we could say a full-fledged millennial.

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