4 Easy Ways to Protect Your Data Online

It’s not difficult to see how much companies track what we do online. The scary part? Private browsing is a lot more challenging than most people think.

No matter where you go online, websites are collecting your information. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all track your actions too. Every time you “like” a post or photo, your actions help Facebook continue to track your activity on outside websites through embedded coding. Yeah, this might make you want to hide under the covers of incognito mode (which really doesn’t do much).

Thankfully, there’s still a list of practical things you can do to keep your web browsing private. You can use these private browsing tips to take back some control of your internet activity and help keep your data from being collected.

How can I protect my data online?

Here are some of the best tips out there for keeping your data private. It doesn’t matter if you’re just learning about internet privacy for the first time or if you’re an expert in internet safety. These tips will help you remain more anonymous online so you can have more peace of mind.

  1. Limit the amount of information you put on social media. This is true especially for Facebook. Think twice about sharing the exact location of your latest vacation to hundreds of friends and a giant tech overlord. If you want your private information kept safe, then just be careful with how many details you share. Facebook is known for selling, sharing, and leaking user information. Once it’s out there, it’s really tough to bring it back.
  2. Start using a VPN (virtual private network). Using a VPN will help by masking your IP address and keeping your information encrypted. This makes it much harder for hackers to steal your information. You can easily change your IP address with a VPN. Instead of connecting directly to your server, you’ll be connected to a different server at an undisclosed location.
  3. Block third-party cookies through your browser. Under the Privacy or Browsing options in your browser’s settings, you can find a tab that says, “Block third-party cookies and site data.” Third-party cookies are what websites use to remember something about you. Selecting this option will stop some of the tracking. Unfortunately, not all websites honor users who’ve selected this setting.
  4. Use Tor browser. Similar to how a VPN protects your IP address by giving you a fake one, Tor browser does something similar by randomly routing your data so it’s almost impossible to keep track of. It works like a private web browser. There’s a lot more information you should know before using Tor, so it might just be easier to use a VPN. There are some cases where entities have been able to trace information over Tor, even though this hasn’t happened often.
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Data effective 10/01/2020. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

What kinds of data can websites collect?

In order to protect your browsing, it’s important to know what’s being collected. There are a few main areas that the internet can track in order to keep you from operating in “private browsing mode.” So before we tell you how to stop the data from collecting, here’s an outline of what is recorded in the first place:

Information on how you interact with the web. Like we share in this article, Facebook is widely known for tracking how you interact with websites even outside the Facebook app. In order to produce better, more targeted ads, websites can collect patterns based on your browsing history and the web browser you use.

Your IP address. Any website you visit at any time can collect your IP address and circumvent private internet browsing. Every person needs an IP address to access the internet. Your IP address can lead back to you and your approximate location when you accessed the internet. By itself, your IP address doesn’t reveal too much about you. But if it’s paired with other personal information, it could reveal more info about you than you want it to.

Cookies. These are tiny text files that you can collect when visiting many websites. Cookies help other websites keep track of your personal preferences. On the one hand, this can be helpful when you’re searching the same thing or trying to find an old website you signed into. It helps keep your browsing history for you. However, cookies are often used by websites for marketing and advertising. Cookies can collect info from site-to-site or from page-to-page.

Information about your browser. Websites can often see which browser you’re using. While this might not seem like a big deal at first, your browser can make it easier for websites to use cookies. The browser itself collects information (browsing history) about which accounts you’ve signed into. All of this stored information makes your internet experience less private.