How to Protect Your Online Privacy

How to Protect Your Online Privacy

9 Tools to Protect Your Online Privacy

Pew Research Center Americans’ Views on Government Surveillance Programs survey asks whether such monitoring programs have changed their online behavior. Most Americans know about these programs. More than a third of those familiar with government surveillance have taken steps to protect their privacy, and one-fourth of those, create stronger passwords.

Although more than half say it’s unacceptable for the government to monitor communication, many haven’t changed their online habits. What’s interesting is that more than 90 percent of respondents say that customers have lost control over personal information. Many don’t know how to protect their privacy or they’re not aware of tools that can help.

Protect Your Online Privacy

Furthermore, some privacy tools are hard for the average online user to learn. For example, Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP, email encryption tool requires the person receiving the email to have a key to decode your emails. It takes two to make this work.

Still, if you’d like try PGP, here are the instructions to encrypt emails in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2013. You might like the tips from Stop Google from tracking you, which includes steps for turning off ads on Android and iOS devices.

We’ve searched the Web far and wide to find useful tools for you. They’re easier than installing PGP, but a couple may take a little more tinkering.

Here are nine tools to help protect your online privacy.

1. Duck Duck Go: Search engine that doesn’t track you

All the big search engines collect information to target ads based on your interests. Switch to Duck Duck Go, a search engine that aims “to give you great search results without tracking you.” Here’s its detailed privacy policy and advanced search syntax for sharpening your queries.

2. Tor: Browse Web privately

Tor is a network of servers connecting through virtual tunnels instead through a direct connection. Because of this, Tor doesn’t share your private information or location over public networks. The Tor Browser is available for Windows, Mac and Linux as well as Orbot, a browser for Android devices. The organization offers other anonymity software for Internet-savvy users.

3. Privacy Badger: Block spying ads and invisible trackers

Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization, provides this browser add-on for Firefox and Chrome to help prevent advertisers and third-party trackers from secretly tracking your web surfing activities. If you use the popular Adblock Plus, this would replace it. The Privacy Badger FAQ explains how it’s different from other similar extensions.

4. Blur: Secure information shared online

Blur is a password manager for Windows PC, iOS and Androids with account and password management, masked emails, autofill forms and tracker blocker. A Premium version is available to mask personal numbers and back up data. Privacy Badger and Blur have some overlap. Go with the one that better meets your needs.

5. Burn Note: Self-destruct sent messages

This private messaging system for iPhone, iPad and Android self-destructs every message with an adjustable Deletion Timer. How many times have you your mind about sending a message? If it hasn’t yet been opened, you can delete it.

One of its clever features is Privacy Spotlight, which thwarts others from reading your messages over your shoulder and makes it difficult to take screen shots of an entire message. Unlike PGP, others don’t need to have this app to receive a Burn Note.

6. CCleaner: Erase Internet data

A freeware tool for Windows PCs, CCleaner erases traces of your online activities to protect your privacy. This includes search history, cookies, temporary Internet files and other saved data. CCleaner also helps optimize and speed computer performance.

7. Lastpass: Store and protect passwords

Lastpass works with many operating systems and devices to secure and store your passwords. The basic app — free for use on computers — automates logins, completes forms and generates passwords. The ability to sync across mobile devices requires upgrading to Premium.

8. Off-the-Record: Secure instant messaging

Off-the-record protects your instant messaging conversations with four elements: encryption, authentication, deniability and perfect forward secrecy. Many instant messaging apps don’t offer all four elements or even three. OTR requires both parties have an XMPP client with support for OTR. While OTR is a more advanced app, there aren’t easier alternatives that deliver the level of privacy that OTR does.

9. AkrutoSync: Sync calendar and contacts without the cloud

Apple, Google and can sync your contact and calendar data except they store your private information in the cloud. The hacking of Gmail and iCloud have shown what can happen when you use keep personal information in the cloud.

Instead, use Akruto to sync Outlook calendar and contacts directly with your phone. The Windows PC seamlessly works with your phone’s built-in calendar and contacts apps. Your data updates across iPhone, Windows Phone and Android devices automatically, privately and completely.

How do you protect your online privacy? What tools do you recommend?

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