As we all know, internet privacy is a serious concern these days. Every day, we get to hear about privacy breaches and giant tech companies exploiting our personal data. Only recently, the Apple and Facebook privacy war made quite the headlines. The way giant tech companies use personalized user data through third-party tracking is outright shocking.
According to a recent study published by Startpage, 75% of Americans claimed that they are seriously concerned about their online privacy. Considering that the population of the United States is roughly around 328.2 million, that’s a lot of people.
The study, “privacy inertia”, is shocking in a lot of ways. As per the study, even though so many people are aware of the fact that their privacy is being exploited every single day, most people are reluctant to take any real action, especially young people. Ironically, in the study, the younger group of people stated that they find it much easier to end their relationship with their partner than to leave social media.
Why are we so accustomed to using social media and other services that are designed to harvest out data?
Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft are all after our data, yet we still keep on using their products.
Well, the thing is, companies like Google have done a great job making their products super easy to use. Without a doubt, they make our lives easy. In fact, we can’t live without them. Apps like Gmail and devices like Alexa have become part of our lives. We can’t just avoid using them. It’ll be like living under a rock.
Now let’s hop back to the study real quick.
According to the “privacy inertia” study, 62% of consumers in the U.S are now better aware of how their personal data is used online. For example, as per the statistics:
- 57% of consumers notice ads based on their browsing history.
- 47% have read articles about how their personal data is being used online.
- 46% of consumers notice ads targeting their location.
So it’s obvious that knowledge is important. With growing awareness, the masses are getting more conscious about their internet privacy.
That’s a good thing, right?
Well, yes and no.
While awareness has grown in recent years, people still don’t really care about what matters the most.
For example, according to the study, “42% of Americans are not comfortable receiving ads that target their browsing history, location, political affiliation, and/or age”. However, what Americans are not concerned about is the growing government surveillance. While Americans are rebellious against tech companies harvesting their data, they’re not too bothered about their own government spying on them unethically.
In a world where we have become so dependent on social media, tech companies, and their products, it is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve any level of real privacy.
But there is still hope though. You can still achieve online privacy without drastically altering your everyday life on the internet.
So what can you do? Well, let me take you through a few basic steps that can help you increase your privacy on the web without making your life miserable.
Get yourself a VPN:
Everything that you do online can be tracked. Your internet service provider can see every website that you visit in real-time. What’s worse, if you use public Wi-Fi in places like your local coffee shop, anyone with a bit of technical knowledge can intercept your data packets and see exactly what you’re doing online.
This is where getting a VPN can be super helpful. A VPN can encrypt your online traffic and make it totally untraceable. Once encrypted, no one, not even your ISP will be able to tell what you do online. This will save you from targeted ads and prevent anyone from spying on you. VPNs have become super popular in recent years. According to TheVPNExperts, the VPN industry is expected to reach 35.73 Billion dollars by 2022.
So the first step to making yourself anonymous online is to get a VPN.
Switch your browser:
I know that you love Google Chrome, we all do, but if you care about your privacy, you must make a change. The good thing is that there are plenty of secure browsers out there for you to choose from.
Browsers like Firefox are a great alternative to Google’s privacy hogging Chrome browser. Vivaldi is also a great option too. Heck, you can also go for Waterfox, it’s also a very neatly designed browser that won’t spy on you.
What’s cool about these browsers is that you can add extensions to them and limit the data you share with your social media apps. For instance, if you use Firefox or Waterfox, you can install a simple browser extension like “Facebook Containers” that limits the amount of data that Facebook can obtain from your browsing history. Similarly, you can add other extensions too to take control of your privacy.
Change your email client:
This last tip is for all you email junkies out there. If you’re like the 99% of the people out there, you’re still using Google’s Gmail email client. Just to let you know, there are better privacy-focused email clients out there.
Gmail can actually see the content of your emails. It can then use that information to send targeted ads your way. That’s sadly how it works. You use their service for free, they use your data.
To ensure better internet privacy, you can switch to a better email client like ProtonMail or Mailfence. Both of these email clients are free and they won’t intrude on the content of your email.
Now I know what you’re thinking. What about my old email address and how will people reach out to me on my new email address? Well, you can simply set up email forwarding to solve the issue. This way, whoever sends you an email on your old email address, will get automatically forwarded to your new email address.
So there you have it, these were my three tips to help you take control over your privacy without altering your life too much. Just to recall things, our privacy is getting compromised each passing day and we’re not doing enough to make a change.
By simply using a VPN, changing your browser and your email client, you can drastically reduce the amount of data that you involuntarily share online.
With that being said, adopt these changes and take control of your internet privacy.
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