Are you really serious about your privacy online?

No, like serious serious, not just getting outraged by the new WhatsApp Privacy Policy and telling everyone how bad it is?

I ask this because since WhatsApp announced its upcoming Privacy Policy, I see people getting outraged by it (rightfully so) but yet continuing to publicly volunteer their data. The same people, from some of our observations, will complain about WhatsApp collecting their location data and sharing it with Facebook, and yet they geotag all their social media posts, they leave the privacy settings for location data on their mobile phones on always-on and even go as far as posting personally identifying data such as car number plates, ID numbers, etc. publicly online.

As a result, we've put together a list (although it isn't exhaustive, it's a good start) of some of the things you should do to protect your privacy online.

1. Get a VPN

When you use apps and visit websites, most of them collect your location information in the background and associate it with any other data you provide them. Added to location data, they sometimes also collect your device information. To avoid and obscure this, get VPN software that can help you browse the internet and make it look like you're using the app or browsing their website using a device in a different country than the one you are physically located in. We would recommend Proton VPN, but many other VPNs do the job just as well.

2. Tweak your privacy settings

When you visit some of the Big Tech platforms and apps, they collect a whole lot of other data about you, the device you are using, and your internet connection. However, some of these platforms also let you choose what data you share with them and in some cases allow you to even delete data you don't want them to keep through privacy settings.

For example, on Facebook, you can manage your privacy settings through your Facebook settings page. From the settings page, if you click on β€œprivacy”, you can limit who can find you via your phone number and email address and whether or not your profile shows up on search engines. Additionally, you can stop sharing your location with Facebook in your phone’s settings. With Google, you can delete your activity on some associated Google apps by following these instructions.

3. Use a burner e-mail address

When you sign up for services and provide your e-mail address to various websites, use a burner e-mail address, i.e. an e-mail that is dedicated purely to signing up for online services. You can even take this a step further by having a unique e-mail address for every website and service you sign up for.

There are at least two reasons you want to do this.

First, some websites and services are irresponsible and end up bombarding you with marketing e-mails and spam even though you didn't sign up for them. So, you want a single e-mail address from where you can unsubscribe from all of them without it spamming your primary e-mail address.

Secondly, this is to prevent your primary e-mail address from being compromised in case of a data breach. This way you know that if the website or service experiences a data breach, you only used a specific and unique e-mail address to sign up to them.

4. Use a password manager

Following on from using a unique e-mail address for every website you sign up to is that you must use a different, unique and strong password for every service and website you sign up to. You must not use the same password on more than one website or service.

This is because should that website or service experience a data breach, the hackers could have your password associated with your e-mail address, and if you use the same e-mail address and same password across different websites and services it will be very easy for them to gain access to more of your accounts.
This happened recently regarding the Spotify data breach.

The best way to ensure you can do this is to use a password manager. We recommend 1Password but there are many others.

5. Check Permissions

Most apps and browser extensions have a list of permissions that you sign off on when you start using that service. Sometimes, permissions are required for a service to work (e.g. A GPS or Maps app needs to access your location data to work). By double-checking the permissions an app has access to, you could be stopping an app from accessing certain data it doesn’t have to access.

Similarly, if you have smart speakers at home such as a Google Home or Amazon Alexa, you can control if they store any of your audio recordings and if they send them to their server. You can also control other privacy settings and permissions with these devices.

6. Use a private search engine

Google makes money by tracking you, collecting as much information as possible on you, and then sells your attention using ads based on that. But you can still get great search results without being tracked and targeted by using a private search engine. We recommend using DuckDuckGo.

There you have it. Although this doesn't cover everything, it's a good starting point.

Stay safe on the web!

Your online privacy is important, and so are today's other top stories.

πŸƒβ€β™€οΈ Sticking with privacy news, sort of. Google has announced that it has completed its acquisition of Fitbit. Now they will know almost everything about you. Google's Senior Vice President for Devices & Services, Rick Osterloh, said that: "This deal has always been about devices, not data, and we’ve been clear since the beginning that we will protect Fitbit users’ privacy." Why did he need to mention that? Link

πŸ—³οΈ Amidst a total internet shutdown which is being blamed for failing biometric identity verification machines, Ugandans turned out for voting in large numbers. There's also been violence, intimidation, and allegations of election fraud. Worrying. Will elections in Uganda ever be free from controversy? Link

πŸ’Έ This is not a surprise but it's worth highlighting. According to the report resulting from a survey in six African countries β€” Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, and South Africa β€” COVID-19 has led to reduced incomes of over three-quarters of the population, with Kenyans hit particularly hard from continued lockdown. Link

β›” De-platforming continues among Big Tech companies. Spotify has removed what they call a popular conspiracy theory podcast. The reason given: it contained "Dangerous, False, Deceptive, Misleading Content About COVID-19." Link

πŸ—ƒοΈ The most recent census in Nigeria was conducted in 2006 and was plagued by political interference from design through to implementation. The population estimate was 140 million people. The results were criticized and subject to litigation. For the 2021 census to be successful, several things need to change. Link

Quote of the day

Although not an exhaustive list, here are some of the things you can do to protect your privacy online. (Tweet this)

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