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Ways to protect your privacy online

Do I really need to care about my online privacy?

Everyone knows it’s bad if someone steals your password or credit card information, but a lot of people are a lot more apathetic about what they put on Facebook, their personal blog, or anywhere else. Your personal data is worth protecting, though, whether you think so or not.

Not only does that data give companies and governments more power to track you, but it can make it easier for someone to steal your identity, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Plus, you never know where that data may end up one day, and who might see it (potential employers, for instance). Some stuff is more important, of course, but don’t let the little stuff slide just because you don’t think anyone will care. Somebody probably does

1. Use a password manager

A password manager makes it easy to have a unique password for every site and ensures that if one service is hacked, other services will not be vulnerable. Some are free, many are low cost, and they are available for all platforms, including mobile

2. Disable GPS and Wi-Fi on your mobile device until you need them

GPS: Your mobile provider is able to identify your approximate location using cell towers. If

If you have a smart device with GPS enabled, much more precise location information is available to a whole range of entities, including your platform provider and app developers.

3. Read the access privileges for apps carefully, and make good choices

In the digital world if a service is free then you are the product. Many free services and apps collect detailed information about you that allows them to sell highly-target advertising. Next time you download a “free” app, check the information it is asking to access, and decide if this app really deserves those privileges.

Wi-FiWi-Fi broadcasts detailed information about your device, the apps on it, your location, and Internet usage. Disabling Wi-Fi except when you are using it will prevent promiscuous broadcast of personal information. Power management apps will help you avoid having to remember by turning Wi-Fi off whenever the screen is dark, which will also maximise your battery life.

4. Guard your date of birth and telephone number

Never display your full date of birth. It is a key piece of information that many providers use for verification. The same goes for telephone numbers, especially if you lose your telephone and are trying to re-create your contact list.

5.Keep your work and personal presences separate

If you have a work email account, keep it for work only. Your employer has the right to access your work email account, so you really should keep your private emails separate. This will also save you the significant trouble involved in telling all your contacts and updating all your logins if/when you change employers.

You might also consider creating multiple social media identities: work, very private, and “publicly” personal, with different names and different contact lists as much as possible.

Stop leaving private data in the cloud

Online file-syncing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive are among the best innovations to grace the Internet. But while the convenience of viewing your latest photos on Dropbox or of pulling text documents from iCloud may be fantastic, much of your data sits on company servers either unencrypted or protected with a layer of encryption beyond your control.

That means your data is available to law enforcement officials who obtain the right paperwork, regardless of how little objective justification they have for looking at your stuff. And any well-informed hacker can break into your account by using social engineering techniques, by discovering weaknesses in a company’s server security, or by conducting a brute-force attack that tries to guess your password.

For sensitive data that you need to sync across devices, a better alternative is to use an encrypted cloud storage service. You can build one yourself by encrypting data on your PC before sending it to Dropbox, using free software such as BoxCryptor or the open-source TrueCrypt.

Secure the line

One of the worst online security mistakes you can make is to connect to an email, bank, or other sensitive account over public Wi-Fi. If that’s unavoidable—because you spend a lot of time in cafés, hotels, or airports, for example—paying for access to a virtual private network can significantly improve your privacy on public networks.

VPNs serve as an encrypted tunnel that prevents bad guys from getting between you and the Internet in order to steal your login credentials or other sensitive information.

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