My Results: Anonymity & Tracking

Learn About Online Privacy

Check out apps, sites, and services before you use them. Read the privacy policy; if you don't like what it says about what the provider will do with your data and who they may share it with, you can do business with a different provider (even if it means paying slightly more—a "privacy premium").

If you can't bring yourself to read through the official Privacy Policies, use a cheat sheet like one of these:

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.

  1. 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?
  2. If you don't know how an organization or service will use your information—either because they don't say or because their privacy policy is too unclear for you to read—consider not giving it to them, or at least limiting what information you give them.
    1. Don't fill in non-required fields.
    2. 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.
  3. Watch these short videos to see how much information we give away without thinking.
    1. If your shop assistant was an app
    2. #PrivacyProject

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.

  1. 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.
  2. If you want extra protection from tracking, don’t allow websites to use cookies at all unless you explicitly give your permission. Set your browser preferences or phone settings so that cookies cannot be installed. While this will keep your browsing more private, it will also make some websites and applications difficult to load, and some may not function at all.
    • Guide for iPhones/iOS, Android devices, Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Netscape: How to Disable Cookies
    • To find instructions for other browsers/devices (or newer versions), do a search on 'disable cookies' and the name of the browser or device.

Note that these options do not cover all of the possible types of cookies. New types of cookies (currently, Flash cookies and "supercookies") may not (yet) be deletable using browser options.

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.

For frequent online tasks, there are some sites and services that specifically don't track your activities.

  • A Search Engine That Doesn't Store Your Search History or Identifying Information: DuckDuckGo
  • A search engine that uses content search assistance from major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo but never tracks your online searches or activities or IP address: Disconnect Search

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.)

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.

  1. Spyware can make it easy for perpetrators to stalk, track, monitor, and/or harass victims. Learn how to protect yourself from spyware:
  2. Develop your cell phone safety plan to protect against tracking:

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.

  1. If someone gives you a great review, ask them before you post their name or photo or anything else identifiable about them.
  2. 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.

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