How to Protect Yourself from Being Tracked Online

You cannot turn on the news without hearing stories of cell phone hacking, government whistle blowing, or private photographs being leaked online. The PRISM program has been allegedly used by the United States government to track more than a million people. If all of this does not make you stand up and pay attention to your online privacy, it is likely that nothing will.

Protecting your digital privacy and preventing others from tracking you online is something that all of us should be interested in, not just banks, multinational corporations, or the super wealthy. There are a number of things that you can do to stop Big Brother from watching over your shoulder and tracking everything you do. Full disclosure, there’s nothing that is 100 percent foolproof. Still, that does not mean that you should throw in the towel or be reckless with your online security.

Read the Terms of Service Agreements before You Give Your Information to Online Sites

The tendency is to simply click "agree" to the terms of service or privacy policies you are offered when you visit sites that require you to enter private information. It’s easy to think, why should I read through all of this when it is in legalese? I’m not going to understand it anyway. Or you might reason, I need the service or the product, so it doesn't matter what the terms of service or privacy policy says.

By clicking "okay" to a privacy policy without reading it, you may be giving an institution the right to track your information without your knowledge, to use your information to target you with pinpointed marketing, or to sell your information to others. It is especially important that you familiarize yourself with service agreements if you are visiting a site that requires you to input financial information.

Use Search Engines That Don’t Track You

Firefox is going to track you. Google makes money because of its ability to track what you do and predict what you are going to do next. Microsoft Explorer, although it’s rarely used, is going to track you.

Many of these browsers offer “incognito” modes. But these incognito modes don’t work all of the time. This is because, in most cases, these settings leave it up to the website you are visiting to determine whether or not they are going to track you.

If you feel like you cannot live without the browsers you are currently using, you should use a VPN to protect yourself. A VPN protects you in a number of ways. First, it encrypts the data that is being sent from your machine out into the world. Second, it hides your location by making it appear as if the information you are sending and receiving is being sent from and sent to the VPN server as opposed to your machine.

Use Different Emails and Passwords for Different Things

The reason why businesses are tracking you is because they are trying to create a marketing profile for you. To do this, they accumulate all of the information they can about you based on things like the emails you send and receive.

You can confound their efforts by using different email addresses for different things. Have an email address that is solely for work. Have another email address that you use solely for streaming services, social media, or other things that require an email for you to have a subscription. Doing this makes it difficult for companies to flesh out your profile. If you really want to stop the tracking, use an email cloaking device.

A lot of the sites you visit store your email address and your password. If you have the same password for your email address, your bank account, your PayPal, and your Netflix service, you are basically making it easier for nefarious people to not only track you but also gain more information about you that could eventually lead to them stealing your identity.

You may think that remembering a different password for each sign in that you have could be a challenge. Never fret, that is what password managers have been designed for. With a password manager, you only have to remember one password. However, each account you have has its own unique password.

Stay Clear of JavaScript Search Engines

If you are trying to avoid being tracked online, JavaScript is your nemesis. JavaScript is like the duct tape that holds the Internet together. But it also is used in cookies. Take precautions to protect yourself from its power. To do this, avoid using basic search engines.

Use a Little Bit of Common Sense

This last one might sound a little bit harsh, but it is one of the easiest ways to prevent people from spying on you. If you get a suspicious email from someone you don’t know, delete it. If you get a friend request from someone you don’t know personally, delete it.

Go through your social media and your email accounts and look for people who send you spam messages. Delete them. If you would not engage with a person in your real life or if you do not have connections to a person in the real world, there is no benefit to engaging with them in social media.

Declining a person’s friend request is not rude, especially if you have no idea who it is that is extending the invitation or what their end intention is. It’s just common sense.

Other steps that you can take to prevent yourself from being tracked include encrypting your email messages, using a burner laptop or cell phone, paying for things with Bitcoin, and avoiding posting personal details anywhere online. Pay attention to privacy settings, especially on social media. Be cautious when using public computer terminals or connecting to public Wi-Fi.

Of course, these are just a few of the ways that you can prevent yourself from being tracked online. What steps have you taken to protect your online privacy? Let us know in the comments section below.

Read next: Nearly 80% of Social Media Users have Adjusted their Privacy Settings in the Last Year!
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