Searching for the most secure digital privacy tips? Tired of being traced by websites, browsers and your ISP? Does the internet always seem to know who and where you are?
I get it. That’s the age we live in. However, with a few clicks, you could be virtually invisible.
Not even the biggest surveillance agencies, including the NSA will be able to track you (unless you really piss them off, bad.)
Digital Privacy Tips for 2020
So, let’s get you your privacy back.
1. Use a VPN
When you think “digital privacy”, your first thought should be a VPN.
The only concrete link between you (as in, you as a person) and the internet is your IP address.
The IP address can be used to trace and track you. It also is used to link your web activities to you.
Almost anyone (including the websites you visit, the apps you use, your browser, your ISP, and even other members on some chatrooms) can see your IP address without needing any special tools or skills.
Once someone has your IP address, they get your exact location. Also, your computer can be hacked directly if someone has your IP address.
Long story short, you can’t let someone see your IP address, right? That’s where a VPN comes in.
It’s a software which “masks” your real IP address. In other words, it offers you new IP addresses which you can use. Here is a detailed piece on What is VPN if you’d like the details.
Now, every website, browser, or group tracking you sees this new IP address. Moreover, whatever you do online can’t be linked to you because no one knows it’s “you” using this new IP address.
So, which VPN to go with? Well, there are a few key-points when choosing a VPN. You can’t trust all VPNs. Not all VPNs are fast or secure either.
This is why I’ve compiled a long list of the best VPN services you should check out.
2. Ditch Google
Wait, what? Isn’t that like the biggest, best search engine on the planet? Well, yes, it is.
But, if you’re someone who needs Privacy, you should really not be using Google. At the least, it knows exactly what you search for, and stores that data.
Then, it follows and tracks you around websites. In fact, Google trackers have been found on 75% of the websites on the internet!
Google also stores your personal information (e.g. location and even purchase-history!).
Search for anything on Google, scroll down to the very bottom of the page. You’d see your location clearly mentioned!
So, the solution here is you just switch to DuckDuckGo. It’s also an equally capable but anonymous search engine. DuckDuckGo doesn’t follow you around, or trace/track your activities.
3. Use Strong Passwords
The easiest way to get hacked? “Easy to guess” passwords.
I bet quite a few of you have passwords like “1234”? “Google”? Your date of birth maybe? Your partner’s name?
Hey, I get it. You don’t have a strong password because it’s hard to remember hard passwords.
That’s where password managers like NordPass come to the rescue.
These password managers remember, save and auto fill your passwords when required.
You can have a 500 character long password, the manager will remember the entire password, and auto fill it, on exactly the sites where you entered or signed up with the password for the first time.
This also saves you from phishing attacks. Password managers like NordPass only enter the password exactly on the website where this password was captured from.
You can also save your card details, bank accounts and other confidential data on a password manager. The password managers are mostly end to end encrypted, meaning, their employees or any third party never has access to your data.
The point being, you can set the most complex password on 1000 different website, and still remember all of this passwords.
The point being, you can set the most complex password on 1000 different websites, without having to remember them, or fill them.
Most password managers also auto sync the passwords across all devices. This means, you can create and save the password on one device, and use the password on your cell phone on other laptops and most other systems where the password manager is compatible.
The best part? NordPass is 100% free. Sure, you can go with any other manager as well. However, NordPass is audited by a third-party company ensuring it’s 100% secure. That isn’t true for most other password managers.
4. Use an anonymous browser (and not Google Chrome).
Google Chrome, alike Google search engine is a major privacy-breach. Scroll down for a more detailed explanation.
However, in simpler words, Google Chrome (and most other browsers) trace and track you.
Tor browser on the other hand is an open-source browser. The primary aim and objective of the Tor browser is to “anonymize” you.
When you use Tor browser, it routes your connection via a number of “nodes”. These nodes too are volunteer-run and not controlled by a company or any individual.
Using Tor also masks your IP address alike a VPN (although, it’s not as untraceable as a VPN).
In simpler words, when you use Tor, your connection reaches the websites via one of those nodes. So, the websites think that the “node” is visiting them, and not you.
Moreover, using Tor you can also browse dark web sites. This is completely optional, however, it’s something that’s not possible with Google Chrome.
However, Tor reduces speed (due to all the routing). Hence, you can also use Brave browser. It’s basically Google Chrome, but, without all the privacy-breaches, or tracking. Hence, it’s also faster (less background scripts).
5. Use an anonymous E-mail ID
Most of you reading this piece for digital privacy tips probably use Gmail or Yahoo. There, you lose all your privacy right there.
Did you know that Gmail can actually “read” your E-mails! And, I’m not just talking of metadata or “timestamps” or sender info. I mean the actual content of the E-mails!
So, you definitely need to stop using these, right? What should you use then? Protonmail is the best answer.
Protonmail is a free, privacy-centric E-mail provider. More importantly, it uses “End to End encrypted” messages. Meaning, no one, not even Protonmail, its employees, or anyone else has access to your E-mails.
Also, Protonmail doesn’t share data with law enforcement or any other groups. They don’t have to, because, Protonmail operates out of sweet Switzerland. Even when data is shared in exceptional cases, the E-mails still can’t be accessed by anyone.
It doesn’t log your IP addresses either. Google? The entire Google business model is built on logging and linking user activities.
Another anonymous E-mail service you can use is Tutanota. It too is free although Protonmail should still be your first choice.
6. Use an encrypted cloud storage
How can we talk of tips on digital privacy without talking of “cloud storage”, right? We all store data online, it may be photos, videos, documents, files and what not.
Now, again, Google Drive is not to be used. Same reasons, Google controls it. Similarly, Dropbox too can’t be trusted because it too isn’t “end to end encrypted”.
Meaning, if need arises, they may be able to view your actual files, and even share it!
The solution? Tresorit or pCloud are pretty good options. They have free plans, and, they’re end-to-end encrypted. No one views your files, except you.
7. Increase your security on Google
I get it. Not all of you are ready to ditch Google just yet. And, I agree. Google truly is a feature-rich and useful app in general we all need.
In that case, go to your Google settings and opt out of “Personalized Ads”. However, that’s only half the solution.
It’s best if you go to your Web and Activity page and disable “Web and Activity” as well as “Location History”.
With these on, Google knows where you are, where you go, the places you visit and literally everything else about you!
Even now, there’s a lot Google can track about you. E.g. if you use Google sheets, Google Drive, Youtube, you’re still using Google products.
Hence, it’s best to switch to non-Google alternatives listed earlier on this piece.
Summary- Digital privacy tips on how to increase privacy and anonymity
Do note that “Google” isn’t the only problem. Even Facebook has been under major scrutiny for privacy invasion.
Point is, as long as you’re on the internet, you’re being controlled by these giants one way or the other. Do you know both Whatsapp and Instagram are Facebook-owned as well? And both, I bet are major part of our lives, aren’t they?
Hence, it won’t hurt if you limit your social media presence. Do not share every hotel/restaurant/cafe that you visit on social media, when you do, do not “location-tag” at the least.
Also, only use “end to end” encrypted email, storage and instant messaging services (Whatsapp is E2E encrypted.)
However, a VPN still remains the most effective way to hide yourself on the web. I agree, these aren’t all the digital privacy tips which exist. But, these are the easiest, simplest stepping stones you could start with!