Protecting your privacy on the internet these days seems like a hefty undertaking, but there are a few things you can do to protect your privacy with just the click of a button. Here are our favourite super-simple tricks.
We've talked about our favourite privacy hacks before, but a lot of times inducing a privacy-oriented overhaul on your workflow is time consuming, and sometimes it just might not fit the way you work (it's not imperative, of course, that everyone quit Facebook without quitting Facebook. These tweaks are, instead, very simple tricks that we think everyone should use, whether you're a tin-foil hat wearer or you just want to reduce the spam in your email inbox. They're so simple, in fact, that even the less tech-savvy should have no problem setting them up with a few clicks.
10. Use Temporary Credit Cards To Avoid Repeat Billing
Whether you want to add some extra security to your online purchases, or you just want to save yourself from overbilling, temporary credit cards are a great help. You can pick them up in gift card racks (such as those in Australia Post). That way, you can make sure that automatic billing doesn't kick in unless you absolutely want it too (after all, it can't charge you if there's no money left on the card). Plus, if anyone ever gets a hold of your account information, all they have is a gift card with a spending limit, not your real credit card.
9. Keep Your Location Private, Even On Your GPS
If you aren't into everyone knowing where you are at all times, you'll want to make sure any given app doesn't share your location. Usually this is pretty simple: don't use services like Foursquare, turn off Facebook Places, etc. But don't ignore the obvious, either: the "Home" button on your smartphone or navigation unit, for example, could lead any car thief right to your home. Instead, use a nearby landmark as your "home" location—that way, your navigation unit will always lead you close enough so you know how to get back, but won't lead any ne'er-do-wells right to your front door.
8. Use A Fake Birthday For Web Signups
Most of the information web sites ask for when you sign up is unnecessary, and sometimes even unsafe. Identity thieves can do quite a bit of damage with just your birthday. Make sure you don't post both the date and the year of your birthday on anything public like Facebook, and if you're required to use it for a web singup, just use an un-birthday to keep their demographic data in place, but without giving out all your personal information.
7. Change Your Gender For Less Annoying Ads
If the ads on your favourite web site are particularly obnoxious, an easy way to avoid them is to try changing the gender on your account. Spotify, for example, seems to only advertise Spotify features and music albums to women. Similarly, setting your gender as male can help you escape the annoying diet or motherhood ads on certain sites if you're a woman. It differs from site to site which ads are less annoying, too. I don't really need the birth control pills Pandora's selling me, but those ads are far less intrusive than the giant, animated Bud Light ads it had when my account was "male".
6. Use HTTPS Whenever Possible
HTTPS is a super easy way to stay safe on the net, and a lot of services will use it by default with a quick settings tweak. You can enable it on Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail by just ticking a checkbox. For everything else, there's the HTTPS Everywhere extension, which will use HTTPS on any site that allows it.
5. Use AdBlock, Even if You Don't Block Ads
You may have heard a lot about extensions like AdBlock Plus, but ignored them because you want to support the sites you visit (and we thank you for that). However, AdBlock extensions are great privacy tools, even if you aren't blocking ads. They can keep you protected from known malware spreaders, and even keep sites like Pandora from hijacking your Facebook login. All you need is a few simple filters in place to put another brick on the privacy wall.
4. Save Yourself From IM Distractions And Annoyances
There's nothing more annoying (or distracting) than getting an instant message from someone you don't want to talk to. Luckily, there are quite a few things you can do to keep your IMs more private, like only allowing your friends to message you, go invisible on a schedule, or only show your online status to the Facebook friends you actually like.
3. Use Disposable Email Addresses To Avoid Spam
One of the best ways to wipe out spam in your inbox is to use a disposable email address for the internet's sketchier sites. If you visit a site that requires an email address but that you don't fully trust, using a service like previously mentioned Trashmail or the simpler 10 Minute Mail, you can use a quick temporary email address to get the necessary "confirmation email" and ignore any future spam that might come your way.
2. Create Secure Passwords
While the most secure password is one you can't remember, there are a lot of tricks to creating easy, memorable passwords without making them easy to guess. We've shared many password-creation tricks before, like storing your passwords in a dictionary, or making sure you use multi-word phrases for better protection. Even just adding a space or two to your passwords can make it much harder to break—just make sure you have a good system in place so you can easily remember them all.
1. Keep Your Security Questions As Private As Your Passwords
Strong passwords are important, but they're utterly useless if your "security question" is something anyone can answer. Instead of going the traditional security question route, you could use a formula to create a memorable, yet indecipherable security question. In addition, you could just use word association to make the question easy for you, but hard for others—e.g., "What's your mother's maiden name?" could be answered with your favourite Iron Maiden album instead.
Got any of your own favourite one-click privacy tricks? Share them with us in the comments.