12 Things you should know about online privacy

Looking after our privacy online is essential to stop theft and fraud. Here are 12 tips to help you protect your online privacy.

1. Update your browser

A web browser is your gateway to the internet, so keep it current. Update plug holes that attackers could use to capture your web history, passwords and more. Browsers such as Google Chrome can update automatically as you work.

 

2. Prevent digital eavesdropping

Do you use Gmail and Facebook? If you do, turn on secure browsing in your account settings to prevent digital eavesdropping. If you see the prefix "https" in your address bar, it's working.

 

3. Add an extra layer of security

Two-step verification is a setting for Gmail, Facebook and some other services that asks for two passwords when you log in: your usual password and a randomly generated password that's sent to your phone.

 

4. Use an alternative email address

Some websites and apps allow you to register using your Facebook or Twitter account, but you share a lot of information about yourself that way. Use an alternate email address, and give a fake name to keep your identities separate.

 

5. Read privacy policies

Websites such as "Terms of Service; Didn't Read" (tosdr.org) explain popular sites' legalese in plain language.

 

6. Clear you cookies

Why do ads on other websites seem to know what you've been searching for on Amazon or Google? The ad itself places web-tracking files called cookies on your computer that remember what sites you visit. Ads on other websites can read those cookies, too. Clear browsing data at the end of a session or use a tool such as CCleaner to remove old cookies.

 

7. Targeted ads

Google and Facebook will use your name and profile photos to target ads at your friends unless you opt out in your privacy settings.

 

8. Check your settings

Some apps and sites ask for access to your webcam or location only the first time you use them. For more control over how or when your data is collected, most devices have settings that let you revoke access when you're done.

 

9. Find my location

Status updates and photos posted online can include your location. Be aware: even if this data is hidden, it can be extracted and used to plot the near-exact location of friends, children and relatives.

 

10. Wireless networks

Be smart about using unprotected wireless networks. It's not hard for someone to eavesdrop on unencrypted data you're sending.

 

11. Encrypt your messages

Apps like RedPhone can be installed on Android phones to encrypt calls and text messages; and Off-the-record, a plug-in for desktop apps Pidgin and Adium, can encrypt your instant messages, too.

 

12. Create a VPN

Why not consider a virtual private network (VPN). Apps such as TunnelBear encrypt your activity in a protective shell, useful for tasks like banking away from home.