Tuesday, April 22, 2014

8 ways to keep your data secure (part 1)


You are being tracked. A vast network of businesses is actively collecting data about you – and not just you, in the general sense, but specifically you. Your age, gender, income range, location, medical issues, and social connections, everything that describes you is fair game for data brokers.


Companies like Acxiom and BlueKai have created an economy of online, automated surveillance, profiting from the collection and resale of user data to and from marketers, advertisers, and other brokers. The scale and reach of this industry can be disheartening, and avoiding its collective gaze increasingly difficult.



Still, there are ways of decreasing the volume of your data flowing to brokers and even regaining some of your privacy. Ranked from the least to the most involved, here are the services, strategies, and products that can throw the data trackers off your trail.

Limit tracking on your phone



Though the steps vary by operating system, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone include settings that let you limit the amount of information that is being funneled to data brokers, as well as to the advertisers and app developers who sell your data to those brokers. These features range from denying location-based data to specific apps – including non-intuitive apps, which don't have a reasonable, Yelp-like reason to know where you are – to opting out of "interest-based ads," which are the beating, creepy heart of the data brokers' mass collection efforts.

Check your phone's settings for privacy options.

Install Disconnect on your computer
In the escalating conflict between us and the organizations siphoning away our personal info, Disconnect is a rare victory for the little guys. This open-source, pay-what-you-want software works with most computer browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari), automatically blocking the data requests that won't interfere with your browsing experience – the ones that won't disable active elements, like video players and comment sections – and giving you the choice to deny the ones that might.
Disconnect has a variety of great visualization features for displaying who is currently trying to track you, on any given page, but our favorite is the number that pops up on the software's icon in the menu bar, ranging from 0 while browsing Wikipedia, to dozens at news sites (like CNN's). It's an instant reminder of the scale, and the persistence, of the tracking industry.

Search without suspicion

Some of the most valuable, and widely-distributed tracking data comes from your search term history – it's an assumptive snapshot of your interests, your brand choices, and your aspirations. Couple those records of curiosity with a history of the resulting search results you actually clicked on, and your online behavioral profile practically builds itself.


Withholding your search history means either switching to a more secure search engine, like DuckDuckGo, or installing Disconnect Search, which also prevents the sharing and storing terms and results, but currently only works with Chrome and Firefox.


Turn on Do Not Track


The efficacy of Do Not Track headers is questionable, to say the least. It's a noble idea, to set your browser to automatically announce to every visited page, that its user does not want to be tracked. Whether the sites and advertisers will listen is another matter, and it could take years for the FTC or others to start punishing those who blatantly ignore Do Not Track requests. Still, it doesn't hurt to turn the feature on – check your preferences in Chrome and Firefox, click the necessary boxes, and hope for the best.


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article taken from Men's Journal (original link)

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