Privacy, like security, is continuously at war with convenience. The internet and app stores are filled with “free” products that will do amazing things for your productivity and entertainment, all in exchange for as much of your private, personal data as they can convince you to give them. That includes scanning your messages, tracking your location, uploading your contacts, copying all your photos, mapping all your relationships, and otherwise building as complete a model for you and your life as possible.
You might think that’s great. You have nothing to hide so if Facebook or Google or government agencies or even casual observers know everything about you, who cares? You’re getting a ton of valuable stuff essentially at no cost to you. If that’s you, just keep doing you.
Or, you might think, you can always make more money but you can never get your private messages and photos back, or restore your dignity in the age of privacy breaches, abuses, and continuous data grabs. Whether it’s the Cambridge Analytica scandal or the ongoing Google tracking issues, if you want to lock down just how much these companies can look up on you, I’ve got some tips that can help.
Now, just to be clear, these aren’t security tips. I’ll cover those in another column. These are privacy tips. They’re ways to make sure people and companies learn as little as possible about you, while you still get the most you can from them. Cool?
Lock down the Lock screen
The Lock screen is an amazing way to take in all your new notifications at a glance and even ask Siri to go fetch you more information when you need it, all without having to use your passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID. But that means someone else can shoulder-surf those notifications and widgets, and even ask Siri for your information.
If you want to go halfway, you can turn off things like message previews so names and contents stay private. If you want to lock down the lock screen, you can turn it all off, including Siri. You’ll have to authenticate to get your data, but so will anyone and everyone else.
Block the Trackers
Ad companies don’t want to pay to show the same person the same ad multiple times if you’re not going to buy. But, if there’s a chance you will, they want to follow you across the internet until you do. That’s led to the creepiest, ugliest, most wasteful code imaginable following you around and junking up your browser experience.
To prevent it, you can install and enable a Content Blocker. It could break some sites by accident, or help cause some sites you love to go out of business, but you can whitelist and pause blocking whenever and on whichever sites you like, and keeping on blocking on for all the ones you don’t.
You can also turn on Limit Ad tracking in Privacy Settings. This won’t stop you seeing ads but it will stop ad companies from showing you ads they think are relevant to your interests. Only generic ads for you.
And, hey, maybe force Google et. al to clean up their ad broker acts.
Safari was the first mainstream browser to offer a private mode and it’s still there, and easily accessible, to this day. In Private mode, your searches won’t be saved, your history won’t be updated, and nothing you enter will be added to AutoFill. Anything and everything you do will simply go away when you close the tab.
You’ll lose the convenience of being able to easily go back to a page you visited and re-fill text you entered, but no one else will be able to see it either.
For even more privacy, you can turn on “Prevent Cross-Site Tracking”, “Block all Cookies”, “Ask Websites Not to Track Me”
Hotspot and VPN
When you’re at home or at work, use a router and ISP you trust. Most should be fine. Those are the connections your packets use to travel to the internet and you don’t want them being snooped at the source. If in doubt, check the privacy policies of the companies you do business with and make the best choices you can. (This is why I’m still salty over Apple leaving the router space, FYI.)
When you’re traveling, avoid quote-un-quote free public Wi-Fi. You may not be a target for snooping, but being on someone else’s open network is just too big an opportunity for bored or curious hacker type minds, never mind malicious ones.
Use your iPhone or iPad’s personal hotspot feature instead. It’s super simple to use. As long as you have appropriate carrier plan, you’re logged into the same iCloud account and you’re in proximity, it’ll just show up as a Wi-Fi option. Tap, connect, no password needed. If you have enough data, it’s your first, best option to protect your web activity on the go.
If that’s not an option, your next best choice is a VPN or virtual private network. It created a private, secure tunnel between you and wherever you’re connecting to on the web, so no one else on the free Wi-Fi connection you’re using can see what you’re doing. There are a few things to consider before using a VPN, though. You don’t want to use a free one. They typically take your privacy in exchange for the service. You also want to make sure they anonymize you, so there are no logs of your activity, which would defeat the purpose……Read more>>