You might stream yourself playing Fortnite or answering questions on Instagram Live. But you wouldn’t dream of live-streaming your daily private computer usage. That’s because what you do online is private to you and you only.
Unfortunately, our modern devices, software, and services make our private computer usage more public than we’d like. By implementing tracking in websites, apps, and in operating systems, what we do on the computer is constantly monitored — often without our knowledge.
So, while you might not explicitly share a video of what you’re viewing in a web browser, multi-billion dollar tech companies still know what you’re viewing, when you’re viewing it, and when you viewed it before.
You already know why this is bad.
Think of the worst thing you’ve ever ran an internet search for. Now imagine that thing being unintentionally added to a permanent record on you and getting ads for that thing for as long as you use the internet. Imagine that thing showing up in future credit scores, background checks, and so on.
Yes, this is a gross invasion of privacy, but it’s one you signed up for just by using the most popular services on the internet. Services like Google, Facebook, and TikTok might be free, but they’re free for a reason: in exchange, they’re getting loads of information on you that they can sell to advertisers and data brokers for hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
Even if you’re paying for some services, your private data still might end up being the product being sold.
Three ways of prevention.
There are three main ways to prevent these types of privacy breaches:
- Do Not Track — Companies hoard your online data and violate your privacy by sniffing through things called “cookies.” Cookies store and track your movement online and across websites, making it easier for you to come back to a website — and easier for companies to vacuum up your data.
Nearly every browser these days has a setting that lets you tell advertisers “Do Not Track Me.” You’ll often find this in the “Privacy” tab under the Settings menu of your browser. In Google Chrome, for instance, you’ll find it on the right side menu, under Settings, then Privacy and Security, and way on the bottom of Cookies and other site data. (Google does not make it easy to find, as it’s in their company’s best interest to keep it enabled.)
Firefox and Safari both have Do Not Track enabled by default.
Note that data hoarders and advertisers can simply, silently respond “no” to your “Do Not Track” request, and continue tracking you anyway.
2. Block, Block, Block — You can protect your privacy and block tracking cookies in your browser by installing tracking-prevention extensions like uBlock Origin and Ghostery. You can even block all trackers on your entire home network by building a Pi-Hole. These services are free and allow you to stop trackers entirely — not just asking them nicely not to track you. It’s a nearly foolproof way to protect your privacy.
3. Rethink How You Use the Internet — Sure, this might seem like a tall order, but is sacrificing your privacy worth it? There are more private, less intrusive alternatives to nearly every service you use these days, all with little or no ad tracking.
For instance, you can use DuckDuckGo instead of Google and ProtonMail instead of Gmail. While there are no massively popular alternatives to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like, consider the alternative of simply not using them and resorting to messaging apps instead. After all, why would you give up your privacy just for a few virtual likes?
We’ve all sacrificed a bit of our privacy — even if it means just giving away our email address — just to use a product. Perhaps it’s time we start using products that ask less from us and give us a safer environment in return.
Your privacy is important, and it should stay private. Unfortunately, companies play fast and loose with the private data of their users, and some of this data can end up anywhere from search engines to in the data troves of hackers. By taking preventative measures like blocking tracking and switching to more ethical alternative products, you can keep your private data as private as it was meant to be.
Privacy Pays with Ozone.
Ozone puts your private data to work, letting you earn cash and rewards by anonymously sharing it with data brokers. Instead of involuntarily letting go of your privacy, Ozone builds you an anonymous profile that’s 100% created with your explicit input.
Ozone never sees your data, and advertisers will never know who the anonymous data belongs to. This lets you simply get the cash you’re owed for secure use of your scrambled private data — the same data privacy-invading tech corporations use to make a beaucoup profit.