How Private Is Your Online Life? These 10 Tips Will Keep Your Personal Data on Lockdown

Scarlett Wrench
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From Men's Health

Data privacy is a big talking point. Every day, we knowingly and willingly share the minutiae of our lives – where we are, who we’re with and what we want – with global tech corporations.

But there are ways to wrest back control – without deleting your apps or changing your name. Here are the minimum and maximum measures you can take to protect your privacy across all platforms, according to Dr Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

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Privacy on Social Media

Use it for: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn

What you give it: Your personal preferences, your location, your contacts, your work history. Plus, in Facebook’s case, everywhere else you’re clicking around the internet.

What you get back: Social connection, community, news updates, easy log-ins, a platform to speak your mind, and updates on your cousin’s newborn.

Basic privacy measure: Only fill out the required fields on your account. One of the easiest ways to track you is through your phone number, so don’t give it out.

Next-level privacy measure: Don’t use the apps, which gives them access to your photos and contacts. Instead, use social media from your phone’s browser.

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Your Voice Assistant

Use it for: Apple HomePod, Google Assistant, Amazon Echo

What you give it: The sound of your and your family’s voices, plus your use of language, music requests, location, and often what you’re watching on TV.

What you get back: Easy access to music, on-demand updates on the news, weather and traffic, plus a hands-free way to win any trivia-based arguments.

Basic privacy measure: Check the default sharing status of the device when you set it up. Turn off, if you can, anything you’d rather not share.

Next-level privacy measure: Your best bet is not to have one. Think of the value proposition: a glorified egg timer for the cost of a surveillance device in your home.

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When Browsing the Internet

Use it for: Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer

What you give it: The breadth of your internet history, including any late-night “Is it normal to…?” searches, as well as the many times you’ve Googled your ex.

What you get back: Um, the internet. Plus, hyper-targeted ads generated by third-party trackers that follow your browsing habits.

Basic privacy measure: If you’re researching big purchases, like cars or holidays, do it in private browsing mode, if only to limit a bombardment of related ads.

Next-level privacy measure: Purchase a virtual private network (VPN) so even your internet provider can’t track you, and use a private browser such as Tor.

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Your Health Tracker

Use it for: Fitbit, Apple Watch

What you give it: Your age, heart rate, weight, your usual running routes, what music or podcasts you listen to while you’re working out.

What you get back: An easy way to track your steps, calorie burn, runs, personal fitness goals and, in some cases, select and follow workouts.

Basic privacy measure: Don’t post your running routes or otherwise add to the built-in social aspects of the device’s apps.

Next-level privacy measure: Go through your defaults and select specifically what you want to track and share, leaving out anything that provides an aggregate picture of you.

When Shopping Online

Use it for: Amazon, Starbucks Rewards, loyalty programs

What you give it: Your shopping and browsing predilections, usual orders, credit-card information, location, and lingering wish to buy a Dyson fan that still sits in your cart.

What you get back: The convenience of easy checkout and seamless ordering, plus a near limitless choice of products and price points.

Basic privacy measure: Be judicious in the programmes you sign up for and what you give them. Is 15% off your cinema tickets really worth giving out your phone number?

Next-level privacy measure: Set up a series of throwaway email addresses unconnected to your other accounts to sign up for rewards programmes.

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