My Results: Anonymity & Tracking
Adjust Your Privacy Settings
On social-media sites, use the privacy settings that limit what other people can post about you, such as:
- Requiring your approval for people to post on your timeline or tag you in photos;
- Blocking other people from "checking you into" a place, as that shares your location with others.
Manage Your Profiles
If an app or site asks for your personal information, weigh the benefits before giving it.
- Ask yourself: Do they really need this information to provide the service? What permissions are they asking for and do they really need access to that information?
- Don't fill in non-required fields.
- You may be able to give false information in the required fields if it's not necessary to the service you're getting. However, you should check the provider's terms of service first to make sure they do not require that your personal information be correct. Don't give false information to banks, government agencies, and other highly regulated services, as it may be illegal.
- Watch these short videos to see how much information we give away without thinking.
Limit Data Collection and Tracking
Limit tracking by reviewing your web browser's or your phone's privacy settings for how long it saves cookies from the sites you visit. In browsers, privacy settings can generally be accessed via the "Preferences" or "Options" menus. (Note that these settings change back to the default when you install an update to the browser.
- To reduce the chances you can be tracked from session to session, set your web browsers on all your devices to clear any cookies when you close the browser.
- Guide for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera: How to Clear Your Cache on Any Browser
- To find instructions for other browsers/devices (or newer versions), do a search on 'automatically clear cookies' and the name of the browser or device.
Install a browser add-on to help limit the amount of information collected about you. However, note that, whatever they may promise, none of these tools can completely prevent sites and services from tracking you; there are too many different tracking methods and they change quickly. (This also means you should check for updates frequently.) Use this guide to choose an anti-tracking tool:
Make sure you choose a tool that actually limits tracking. Some common tools hide ads without preventing advertisers from tracking you.
To make it more difficult to link up your online personas, or just to avoid spam, use a disposable email account or proxy email account when you register for new accounts online. (Don't use a truly disposable address for sites that actually need to be able to communicate with you, for example, if you want an online store to be able to send you a receipt later.)
- Directory of Providers: The Ultimate Disposable Email Provider List
Secure Your Communication Channels
Use anonymizing software that routes encrypted online communication through a layered series of "proxies", or indirect connections, to (mostly) hide your identity. (Be aware that there are still ways people can identify you, but an anonymizer will make it much more difficult for them to do so.)
- Software That Uses Proxy Servers to Route Communications: Tor Project
Cell phones, computers, and other devices are important to our lives, but they can also be used by others to track where we are. If you believe someone is harassing, stalking, or abusing you, it's important to make sure you take the steps needed to ensure your devices are not being monitored.
- Spyware can make it easy for perpetrators to stalk, track, monitor, and/or harass victims. Learn how to protect yourself from spyware:
- National Network to End Domestic Violence's Resource for Learning How to Improve the Safety and Security of Your Devices: Technology Safety & Privacy: A Toolkit for Survivors
- Develop your cell phone safety plan to protect against tracking:
- National Network to End Domestic Violence's Tips for Cell Phone and Location Safety: Cell Phone & Location Safety Strategies
Privacy Tips for Businesses
If customers, clients, or donors contact you, don't pass the communication along or post it publicly without asking them. This applies to both positive and negative feedback, as well as other types of information.
- If someone gives you a great review, ask them before you post their name or photo or anything else identifiable about them.
- If you're quoting something someone posted on a public site, or you're responding to a review, don't add other information you know about the individual without asking them.
Be aware that when you buy online ads to drive traffic to your site, or when you sell ad space on your website for other companies' products, you are adding to the advertising company's profile of your customers or members. If your business or organization is of a sensitive nature, you might consider using an advertising service that does not track the behavior of individual users.
Be selective about the software and communication platforms you use in your business or organization. If it doesn't state clearly in the terms of service or user agreement that they will not share your data or your customers' or donors' data with any other entities, contact the company and ask. If you can't get a straight answer, choose a different platform.
Resources to Learn More About the Topic
How You Can Be Identified Online
Online Tracking Methods
- Explanation of How Cookies Work: What Is a Cookie?
- Test Whether Your Web Browser Setup Is Unique (with Explanatory Article): Panopticlick
- Article About How Much Privacy Incognito Mode Provides: How Private Browsing Works and Why It Doesn't Offer Complete Privacy
Online Tracking and Online Advertising
- Video About Online (and Offline) Tracking: Hot on Your Trail: Privacy, Your Data, and Who Has Access to It
- Extensive Article About Tracking and Behavioral Advertising: I'm Being Followed: How Google—and 104 Other Companies—Are Tracking Me on the Web