Maybe you secure your passwords or encrypt important files, but do you log out of Facebook every time you leave your personal computer? Or your email? When a friend wants to borrow your computer to check his or her email, they can stumble onto embarrassing information about your life without even trying. Your computer knows an awful lot about you, and it’s perfectly willing to share unless you tell it otherwise. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can protect your digital privacy in meat space. This guide will show you how.Photo remixed from an original by osorama
Most of what we do is on the web these days, so that’s where we’re going to start. First we’re going to take a look at some of the simple things you can do to improve your privacy and then the more extreme measures you should probably ignore.
Regularly Use Private Browsing
Ever have anyone snooping around your Facebook account? Doesn’t feel good, does it? If you really want to avoid snoopers, relegate your Facebook usage — and social site activity in general — to a private browsing session. Because you won’t be signed in to Facebook in your regular browsing session, this will prevent Facebook’s single sign-on feature from allowing you (or anyone at your computer) to log in to any other sites supporting it. Basically, the fewer sites you’re logged in to the less you have to worry about someone getting into your account information when they have access to your machine. This comes with the inconvenience of manually logging in every time, but that’s a price worth paying if you want certain activities and access to disappear without a trace.
Re-write Browsing History
Remove Autocomplete Suggestions in Text Inputs
All of the above methods are pretty simple and easy to manage. If you’re incredibly paranoid and want to be as private as possible, however, there are more extreme options. You can disable cookies, your web browsing history, and always browse privately. When you’re done with a browsing session, you’ll want to immediately quit your browser as some files may be cached until you do. You may also want to disable Flash, as it operates somewhat independently of the browser. Basically, turn off everything. Don’t sync anything. Don’t save passwords. Don’t use anything that will make your life more convenient. This is extreme behaviour, and if you’re in a situation that requires it you should seriously consider getting yourself out of that situation, but it’s worth noting that there are plenty of ways to avoid saving any part of your browsing session locally to the computer you’re using.
Your Desktop or Laptop
The obvious, easy solution is password-protecting your machine every time you step away from it, but that comes with its own set of disadvantages. Primarily, it implies that you don’t trust anyone and have something to hide — which can make snoopers unnecessarily paranoid. It also means your machine isn’t accessible on the network (unless you set up wake on LAN). Nonetheless, a password is often the best option. If you don’t know, here’s how to password-protect a Windows computer or a a Mac. There are a few more creative and specific options, however, so read on if you’re looking for alternatives.
Create a Doppelganger Account
Alternatively, if you don’t want to mislead anybody, you can simply create a (or use your existing) guest account for virtually the same effect. A guest account is also locked down far more than a regular account, plus, if you’re running Mac OS X, any files that were created while the guest account was in use will be deleted as soon as the user logs out.
Create a Private Account
Hide Specific Folders and Files
If you don’t want to lock down everything you can just encrypt or hide specific files. One of our favourite methods in Windows is hiding files inside of other files (check out the video version here), but are plenty of other options. Mac users can download
Cryptor for individual file and folder encryption.
Smartphones are the newest technology creating a need for a privacy lock down so your options aren’t quite as plentiful. That said, there are still a few things you can do on the various platforms.
Password-Protect Your Device
There isn’t much you can do on iOS other than add a password. On the plus side, this is very easy to do:
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap General.
- Tap Passcode Lock.
- Enter your desired four-digit passcode.
As far as we can tell, jailbreaking won’t provide you with a means to secure your phone any further. Fortunately, a passcode should be enough to keep out most people.
While Android has further options for encrypting data going to and from your phone (such as SSH tunnelling ), a password is really your best bet here as well. Here are the steps:
- Go into your Android’s settings.
- Choose Security.
- Choose Change Unlock Pattern and enter the pattern you want.
- Check Require Pattern.
If you want to take it a little further than a password, our mobile security guide can show you how to set up remote wipe and a few other things to better-secure your smartphone. You may also want to set up Find My iPhone for your iDevice (here’s how to do it on older devices) or roll your own Find My iPhone equivalent for Android.
These are just a few good ways to better protect your digital privacy in the real world, but there are certainly more. If you have any great tips or suggestions, be sure to share ‘em in the comments.