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How to Protect Your Online Data and Avoid Targeted Misinformation Campaigns

Data protection

From targeted misinformation ads to data breaches, password leaks, scams, and phishing e-mails, ensuring that your data and online surfing profile are protected is crucial. Here are some steps you can take right away:

1. CREATE STRONG PASSWORDS AND USE A PASSWORD MANAGER TO GENERATE AND REMEMBER DIFFERENT PASSWORDS

To help prevent others from logging into your accounts in your name, create strong passwords using a combination of at least 12 numbers, special characters, and upper- and lower-case letters.

Use different passwords for different accounts and it’s strongly recommended to use a password manager to generate and remember different, complex passwords for every account. This is the most important thing you can do to protect your privacy and security today. Passwords managers like LastPass and 1Password can generate passwords, monitor accounts for security breaches, suggest changing weak passwords, and sync your passwords between your computer and phone.

Also, turn on the two-step authentication for your important accounts. This consists of adding your mobile number so that you can receive a text with an additional number you input before you can log in.

2. DOWNLOAD THE LATEST SECURITY UPDATES

Those notifications you often get from your computer or phone to install the latest security update? You should always download those.

3. DON’T OVERSHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Providing too much personal information on social media makes it easier for cybercriminals to obtain identifying information, which could allow them to steal your identity or access your financial information to start with. You should always ignore the “About Me” fields in your social media profiles. You don’t have to let people know what year or where you were born — which could make you an easier target for identity theft.

Also, by sharing your life and too many activities on social media, you are helping Big Tech Companies, data collectors, and websites profile you and track everything you do online. The data collected reveals more about you than you might expect. You might think yourself clever for never tweeting your medical problems or sharing all your religious beliefs on Facebook, for instance, but chances are good that the websites you visit regularly provide all the data advertisers need to pinpoint the type of person you are. This is part of how targeted ads remain one of the Internet’s most unsettling innovations.

Another issue with sharing your wealth and Intsa-bragging is that they have led on many occasions to attract thieves and criminal gangs online.

4. TURN OFF AD PERSONALIZATION & OPT OUT OF AD PERSONALIZATION ON MAJOR PLATFORMS

Log into your account settings and turn off ad personalization, which often gives companies permission to do invasive tracking.

  • Google and Android

Here’s a link to limit ad personalization on Google and Android.

  • Apple

This page shows you how to opt out of ad personalization on Apple. As of this writing, it hasn’t been updated for iOS 14. If you have updated to iOS 14, go to Settings > Privacy > Apple Advertising > turn off Personalized Ads.

  • Facebook
  • On this page, you can go to the ad settings tab and toggle the settings to not allowed.
  • This page has steps to disconnect your activity off Facebook that is shared with Facebook, and clear that history.
  • On the Off-Facebook activity page, under What You Can Do, you can click on More Options > Manage Future Activity > and toggle it to off. (This page has those steps.)
  • Twitter

This page explains how to opt out of ad personalization.

5. DON’T INSTALL SKETCHY SOFTWARE

Every weird app you install on your phone and every browser extension or piece of software you download from a sketchy website represents another potential privacy and security hole. Countless mobile apps track your location everywhere you go and harvest your data without asking for consent, even in children’s apps.

6. BROWSE IN PRIVATE MODE

If you don’t want your computer to save your browsing history, temporary internet files, or cookies, do your web surfing in private mode.

Web browsers offer their own versions of this form of privacy protection. In Chrome, it’s called Incognito Mode. Firefox calls its setting Private Browsing, and Internet Explorer uses the name InPrivate Browsing for its privacy feature. When you search with these modes turned on, others won’t be able to trace your browsing history from your computer.

But these private modes aren’t completely private. When you’re searching in incognito or private mode, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can still see your browsing activity. If you are searching on a company computer, so can your employer. The websites you visit can also track you.

So, yes, incognito browsing does have certain benefits. But it’s far from the only tool available to help you maintain your privacy while online.

7. USE A DIFFERENT SEARCH ENGINE

If you’re like many web surfers, you rely heavily on Google as your search engine. But you don’t have to. Privacy is one reason people prefer to use anonymous search engines.

This type of search engine doesn’t collect or share your search history or clicks. Anonymous search engines can also block ad trackers on the websites you visit.

8. USE A VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK

A virtual private network (VPN) gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. VPNs mask your Internet Protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable.

9. FINALLY, BEWARE OF PHISHING

Phishing attempts can happen via email, text message, or phone calls. Generally, they’re trying to get your username and password. But there are often signs that these messages aren’t legit – spelling or grammar errors, links to websites other than the one it should be linking to, or the email is coming from a weird domain.

PHISHING EMAIL EXAMPLE


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