Do you worry about your online privacy? Most of us have gotten use to the fact that the conveniences of the Internet come at a price, usually in the form of huge companies collecting data about us that they then resell to marketers. Still, it can be a bit disconcerting to see an ad pop up in your Facebook news feed based on a recent random Web search. You don't have to "be up to no good" to not want strangers "knowing your business." Here are a few simple steps to help protect your online privacy.
Employ a non "mainstream" browser. Chrome, Edge, Internet Explorer, Safari ... chances are you're using one of these because it came with your computing device. And the reason they're so easy to get (and free!) is because these browsers are basically built for data mining (your data is worth much more to these providers than the cost of creating these tools and algorithms you use every day!). However, there are alternatives such as SRWare Iron, Midori and a new one from Brave that come without all the tracking capabilities.
Shut the door on invasive tracking. Okay, so maybe you are used to your regular browser with its myriad tools and you don't want to give it up. You may still be able to stop some of the more egregious spying on your comings and goings (and even forestall some web-based attacks) with one of these add-ons: Disconnect, Ghostery and HTTPS Everywhere.
Stop googling (or "binging") your web searches. Say "web search engine" and the Google name dominates. And there's also Bing, the best-known alternative, pushed by Microsoft. However, these search engines too are all part of the data mining apparatus that informs marketers and others about your every online move. Instead of making your information easy pickings, you could try DuckDuckGo or StartPage to conduct your random Internet searches.
Put your messages in secret code. You probably don't care who reads your latest lolcats forwarded message, but if you're in a line of work that's a target of corporate espionage or if you deal with sensitive information, you might consider encrypting your communications. Signal and WhatsApp are a couple of choices worth considering. Of course, the people who receive your encrypted messages will need the proper "key" to read them.
Change your personal email provider. The good thing about having had your email address for a long time is that all the right people already have it. The bad part is that a lot of the wrong people have it as well ... as evidenced by the daily deluge of spam. Changing your email will stop the spam for a while but to really have a private email address, you may need to spend a little money with a provider such as ProtonMail, Runbox or Posteo. These email services are hosted overseas in countries with strong privacy laws and strong encryption.
Put blinders on your home ISP with a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) will help shield your Internet activity even from your Internet service provider. Unlike most of the suggestions in this article, however, a good VPN isn't free. But if you feel like your anonymity is worth the price, check out Private Internet Access, NordVPN, and IPVanish.