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If you were asked to guess how many hours people spend on the Internet each day, what would your answer be? 1 hour? 3 hours? 4 hours? Well, this may surprise you, but statistics show that people spend an average of 6.3 hours each day online. That includes computers, smartphones and other devices. And 93% of adults admit to going online, so there are a lot of people spending a lot of time on the Internet.
It’s important to point this out, because every minute you’re online, someone is tracking your usage. They collect your data to sell to marketers and data brokers who then resell it to other people who want to target you to sell merchandise. The only problem is that the data that’s collected could end up as identity theft if it gets into the wrong hands. And sadly, it often does.
Limit your Data Collection
The best way to prevent data from being collected about you is to limit who collects it and what is collected. You can start by making sure the data is accurate and you know who you’re communicating with. Use Nuwber, an online tool that provides a verifiable identity check by entering the person’s name, email address or phone number. If more information is needed, Nuwber can do a background check that includes any criminal records.
The biggest data collector is Google, because that’s how they make their money. So every time you search on Google, it’s recorded. The best way around this is to use a browser that doesn’t collect your browsing history, including DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, and if you must use Google, use the Google Incognito Mode.
Manage your Passwords
Passwords are a key to hacking, so be sure you use strong passwords when logging in to your accounts. So, what’s a strong password? Experts say that a strong password should have 10 characters, with a mix of numbers, letters and symbols. Also, you should use a different one for every account you have.
To do this properly would almost become a full-time job! Instead, use a password manager to generate and manage those passwords. Some of the top ones include NordPass, Sticky Password and Zoho, among others.
Keep Private Conversations Private
One of the biggest ways people hack into your online activity is when you’re browsing at an airport lounge or coffee shop, using their WiFi network. If you can get on, so can anyone else in range. Instead, use a virtual private network (VPN) to log on. That way, your conversations will remain yours, and not everyone else’s. Top VPN services include TunnelBear, SurfShark and HotSpot Shield.
Manage your Social Media
Social media is another way your data is tracked. Make sure your settings on all social media sites are set to “private” to keep prying eyes out. Some sites like Instagram and Pinterest will work to keep your content from showing up on Google. Try not to post photos and private information on your social media sites, as that’s how data hackers gather information about you that can lead them to even more data.
Use Best Practices to Prevent Hacking
Always keeping your operating system up to date will help to prevent hacking, as the latest versions have all the fixes that hackers have been using to gather your information. Do the same with all of your other apps and software. Never click on random email attachments. Often, they’re nothing but phishing links that are out to capture your information.
Other best practices include only downloading from authorized and secure websites. If a website URL doesn’t begin with “https:” – it’s not a secure site.
Install Ad-Blocking and Anti-Tracking Tools
As you search from one website to another, cookies are downloaded onto your computer or device – which collect information about your browsing. To prevent this from happening, install some anti-blocking and anti-tracking tools, like AdBlock Plus, Disconnect and Privacy Badger, among others. They work to block cookies which track your browser settings and configurations. Plus, they’ll work to make sure that the third parties you’ve blocked can’t access your personally identifiable information (PII).
In addition to “regular cookies”, you also need to address “super cookies.” These are much harder to detect and just as hard to delete and prevent from getting on your computer in the first place. The latest version of Firefox has the ability to limit those supercookies from invading your devices, by preventing their ability to communicate across different websites.
Read your Privacy Agreements
The privacy agreements you must agree to when downloading an app or software are designed to give the company permission to track your location via GPS or to even download the photos and contacts on your smartphone. That’s why it’s important to know what you’re agreeing to, because this is one of the ways that companies collect your data – often without you being aware of the consequences.
Keep your Email Address to Yourself
Data collectors love to get hold of your email address, not for the address itself, but rather for all the dozens, even hundreds of accounts that are connected to it. Instead, get an email alias that simply forwards your emails to your private email address, and nobody will know what that address is. One example of an alias email address is Firefox Relay, and other top ones include AnoneMail and ProtonMail.
As you can see, there are a variety of ways that companies collect your data without you even knowing about it or providing them with permission in the first place. By following the tactics, recommendations and strategies outlined above, you’ll help to prevent online companies from collecting your data and invading your privacy. It takes effort and time, but it’s worth doing this in order to keep your data safe and identity thieves away from your information.