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Get control back - A privacy guide on the data tracking era

lucasm profile image Lucas Menezes Updated on ・5 min read

Privacy eye spying

You are here.

Your data is out there.

You are valuable.

We are bombarded by attempts to change our behavior, from the social feed recommendations to targeted ads.

Your personal data are being tracked and stored right now, to create psychological patterns and consumer interests datasets, to sell that information to third parties, and to finally create products and services based on what you — and thousands of people like you — 'want'.

And that's fine. We accept this in the "terms of use" and "privacy policies". But, unfortunately, this is often used against us and without our consent, as the NSA/Snowden/BigTechs (2013), Cambridge Analytica/Trump (2019) and data breaches cases show.

And I didn't even mention the risks of government surveillance in some contries and that citizens of an entire democracy can be manipulated.

It is not the data that is exploited, it is the people.

Technology is good when used well.

This is a simple guide about taking control back.


1. Web Browser and Search Engine

All starts when you open your browser and search on the Web.

But if the company behind them sells advertising? Well, every step your do is tracked and your data collected for third-parties.

You can switch. Use a browser and search engine that respect your privacy by default.


2. Cookies, Ads and Trackers

Everywhere.

Cookies are good for personalized browsing experiences, and you can chose to able or disable.

But targeted ads everywhere? There is no control. To do this, web trackers scripts are running 24/7 to collect your data to segment specific ads to you. Some of they are used to create a unique “fingerprint” to personally identify you based on your combinated browser and device info, or even, in worse ads cases, to difuse malware.

Just block them with a browser extension — and when your visit the content sites, like DEV, put them in the whitelist.


3. Network, DNS and VPN

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP), or anyone else listening your Internet connection, can see every site you visit and every app you use — even if their content is encrypted.

Creepily, some providers sell this data (about your internet activity) or use it to target ads for you, or even, manipulate traffic priority and violate the net neutrality principle.

You can try solve this using an more secure alternative for DNS (Domain Name System) resolver. You can also use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to mask your IP address and protect your traffic from external monitoring.


4. Passwords and Account Data

You can use browser default password manager or another to generate and store your passwords securely. When possible, apply two-factor authentication (2FA).

But your password is not safe if it can be easily brute-forced right? Or already been compromised (found in a leaked database of passwords)? And what if some of your accounts are collecting more personal data than you expect? Having trouble deleting your account from a service?

You can check all of these.


5. Social Media

Social networks are amazing to keep in touch with our friends and family.

But, remember, its "business model" is to encourage unnecessary and even dangerous exposure of our lives, in addition to collecting all our habits and tastes, outlining our profile and suggesting changes in our behavior with targeted advertisements.

Take a time to review your social privacy settings.


6. Chat and Email

If your need a secure chat app (that do not track your contacts) and a private-encrypted email service (that do not read your emails to sell ads), don't be ashamed to try:


7. Files and Metadata

You probably use a cloud storage service, and that's good, especially if have encryption capabilities.

However, sometimes you want to temporary share files with privacy, and your can't.

When you share photos on social media or files over the Internet, you ends up exposing himself sending metadata that identifies you, like timestamp, GPS location and device type info.

You can get around it.


8. Apps Permissions

Your activity history, personal files, location, camera, microphone, inking and typing can be tracked by OS and apps.

It's strongly recommended that you check the “privacy” section in your OS settings, to disable not necessary running apps in the background and enforce restrictions to OS and apps permissions, both in your desktop/laptop and mobile phone.


9. Use an Open Source OS

"Enable automatic updates to keep your operating system secure and up to date". Yes! But...

Even though Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS are really good OS, they are a 'billion dollar business' and track your behaviour for this reason.

If you want privacy, more security and even control over your settings, you can choose a free and open source Linux-based distribution to use on your computer.


10. Stay Updated

Read about the laws of data privacy of your country. What the legislators are doing about, and who is them?

Did you know that organizations are fighting for a better and secure internet? And you can contribute.


I hope you enjoyed.

Do not feel pressured to use any of these suggestions.

Just the fact that you read this far means that you learned something about the importance of your privacy today.

Privacy is your right, not a choice.

Have any other privacy tip? Share on the comments =)

Discussion (1)

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phlash909 profile image
Phil Ashby

Great escape list! Personally I also use a variant of the PiHole to filter my local DNS queries, which does a great job of removing malware domains, advertising et al.

I would also recommend adding your email address(es), and domains if you have them, to HaveIBeenPwned to get alerted if any appear in data breaches, so you can take appropriate action.