Why Your Privacy Matters
It's really easy to just brush these things off as unimportant, and to a certain extent, sure: I don't care what kind of ads I'm being served. If they're tailored to me, all the better — it doesn't feel any more invasive. That said, you never really know what companies are going to do with the data you give them. Legally, they have to get your permission before they use it, but we're so quick to give permission without thinking these days that the law doesn't offer us much solace. Make sure you actually read the privacy policies when you can, and turn off any invasive features in the settings of your favourite apps (more on that later).
For good, widespread protection, it's probably a good idea to turn on the "Do Not Track" options in your browser. You can also install a few extensions to help you out, not to mention use something like Collusion for Firefox to see who exactly is doing all this tracking as you browse around your favourite sites.
Tweak Your Favourite Web Services
We already talked this week about hiding your Google search history (and your YouTube search history), but they're far from the only web services looking to use your personal info. You should also check out our always up-to-date guide to managing your Facebook privacy, not to mention how to stop Facebook from tracking your every move elsewhere on the web. If you're a Google+ user, we've shown you how to get your privacy under control there, too.
The other problem you have with web services is that smaller one like to link themselves to your Facebook, Twitter, Google, Dropbox and other accounts — which gives them access to all your data on those services as well. MyPermissions is a great place to start cleaning those up. It doesn't require your login information or anything; it essentially links you to a page on Facebook, Twitter, Google, Dropbox, Flickr and other services where you can manage what apps have permission to access your data on that service. If there are apps you don't use anymore, it's probably a good time to revoke their access to your data.
Lock Down Your Phone's Anti-Privacy Features
Your phone is a better PC than your actual PC is, in part because it knows all about you — which, unfortunately, can also be a privacy concern. Luckily, while you can't always stop your phone carrier from tracking everything, you can at least stop the world from knowing your every move by turning off location tracking. Furthermore, if you're on an Android phone, you'll probably want to take a look at the permissions required by some of your favourite apps. If you're uncomfortable with the permissions they require, uninstall them. If you want an overview of the permissions you've given out, check out free app aSpotCat — it'll give you a detailed look at which apps are looking at what.
Keep Your Home Computer Safe From Prying Eyes
All that is well and good, but big companies aren't the only ones out to get your personal information. Perhaps you have a particularly snoopy roommate (I'd lock your door) or an insecure significant other (I'd reassess that relationship) that wants to go looking at your computer without your knowledge. First, find out if someone's secretly been using your computer and do some damage control from there. After that, make sure that even if they were to use your computer, they wouldn't be able to find what they're looking for. We've shared a bunch of ways to protect your privacy when you share your computer — willingly or unwillingly — and private browsing mode is always a good way to protect some of your web habits (helpfully automated with these extensions, of course). And, lastly, if you use an iPhone, here's how to turn off message previews and save yourself some embarrassment from people standing behind you.
These are just a few things you can do this weekend to audit your privacy settings. Got any other good privacy tips we didn't share? Let us know about them in the comments.