How secure are your computer's privacy settings?

·4-min read
Here's how to secure your computers privacy. (Getty Images)
Here's how to secure your computers privacy. (Getty Images)

Chances are your privacy settings are something you clicked on once and then basically forgot about it. But it's a good idea to occasionally go back and evaluate your settings to make sure they're still right for you.

If you don't like how a particular site is using your information or if you've changed your mind about sharing certain aspects of your profile, then you can and should go back and update your privacy settings. If you'd rather not share any personal information at all, there are other ways to use the internet without giving up too much control over what happens to your data.

Software, such as System Mechanic, works to help keep your private life, well, private. The software bundle helps protect your computer by patching security holes within your device and alerting you of any compromised privacy settings. System Mechanic also helps find browser-stored passwords that are vulnerable to hacking.

Buy it: System Mechanic | Try for 30 days free, then £3.90 a month

Along with installing System Mechanic, you can also choose to browse the internet anonymously by opening a private browser or by turning off cookies and pop-ups for greater privacy.

Tips on privacy settings for social media

Some companies will ask permission at every point where they collect user data — including during sign-up, registration, account creation, login, purchase, and delivery. Social networking sites offer guides or “Frequently Asked Questions” about their privacy tools. Review these resources and refer to them if you have a question about how to adjust your settings on the service.

In addition, check your privacy settings across your social media sites. They allow you to choose who sees when you send messages, photos, videos, etc., and they also give you tools to manage how long those conversations stay stored on both of them.

Periodically review your privacy settings to make sure they still work for you. (Getty Images)
Periodically review your privacy settings to make sure they still work for you. (Getty Images)

Some social media sites also let you control whether people can “tag” you and your activities, and some let you review and approve tags first. Enable this setting, particularly if you do not want other people to share your activities and location with their contacts.

Also, be wary of participating in online games or surveys that ask for personal information. “A lot of these online surveys you see... on social media websites ask pretty much those exact [security] questions. Ever wonder why?” Christopher Rees, an information technologist and trainer at PluralSight, tells Yahoo Life. “I’m assuming they are compiling all of that information that can be used with other info, and over time get very detailed info on people that can be used to reset passwords, answer security questions on websites, email accounts, banking accounts, etc.”

Review the privacy settings on your social media networks. (Getty Images)
Review the privacy settings on your social media networks. (Getty Images)

Tips on privacy settings for online games

Players' personal information is being collected by online gaming companies, raising privacy concerns. Furthermore, profiles within gaming platforms are often linked to broader online social network sites or tied to your phone’s contact list. This makes understanding what information is being collected important. That way, you can decide whether you are comfortable playing the game, and you can adjust your settings so that you are providing the least amount of information possible.

For most games, there should be options available to change information that could be used to identify you offline, such as your profile picture, display name, or location. Some games offer additional privacy controls through their own websites, which are worth looking into.

Some websites use cookies — read the fine print to see what they track. (Photo: Getty)
Some websites use cookies — read the fine print to see what they track. (Getty Images)

Tips on privacy settings for your browser

If you don't set your privacy settings on your web browser, you are relying on default privacy settings that may not meet your privacy preferences. Review your privacy settings and adjust them if necessary. For example, if you're not comfortable with web tracking while doing some web activities, default privacy settings would not be sufficient to protect your privacy.

Your computer's internet browser has built-in tools to help protect your personal information, but you might want to take the extra step and use a tech stack, such as System Mechanic, to alert you of privacy danger zones.

Buy it: System Mechanic | Try for 30 days free, then £3.90 a month

Watch: 5 easy ways to improve your WiFi