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5 Tools to Protect Your Online Privacy

December 9, 2014

Companies may know you better than you think. According to an FTC study, brokers regularly collect an individual's personal data based on their online activity. They can find out your Social Security number, how you pay for things, your children's ages and even the kind of vacations you take. It's no wonder you're worried about your privacy! Fortunately, by using the right tools to protect yourself online you can decrease the chances of having your data sold to brokers and keep your personal information private.

Browsing

What we search for on Google reveals a lot about us. Its privacy policy states, "We may share aggregates, non-personally identifiable information publicly and with our partners like publishers advertisers or connected sites." Since not everyone wants their ads tailored to their search history, it's possible to use alternative browsers like Tor, which lets you browse the web anonymously. Tor protects your privacy by defending you against network surveillance and traffic analysis and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Additionally, if you'd like to keep using your current browser you can turn off cookies to prevent websites from tracking your preferences.

Online Shopping

You'll want to have tools at your disposable that can keep your identity protected, especially if your plans for Christmas shopping involve a credit card and your computer. The holiday season is prime time for hackers. Keep your finances safe while shopping online with Lifelock's online protection services. The company states that they'll spend up to one million dollars to recover your identity should it be compromised. Plus, Lifelock is free with an AOL subscription. Don't wait until it's too late. Take proactive measures to keep your personal information away from prying eyes.

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Chatting

Just because you're being careful about your online privacy, doesn't mean others are as conscientious. Keep your video chats and messages private with Cryptocat. This app encrypts your chat conversations before they leave your computer to ensure the information doesn't fall into the wrong hands. You can also send files and connect to Facebook Messenger to keep your Facebook conversations off-the-record. And when you're interested in sending self-destructing messages, Burn Note is the answer. This service can be used through an app or website and keeps messages from lingering on someone else's device with a deletion time you set before hitting send.

Playing Games

Social online games are becoming as popular as PC and console games, reports a 2014 study conducted by Big Fish Games. However, the rise in online gaming brings certain privacy concerns along with it. Keep your information private while gaming by doing your research beforehand. PrivacyFix is an online privacy dashboard that lets you know which settings you need to fix to keep your data invisible, shows you which companies are tracking your online activities and informs you of any changes. For instance, if you're using the Candy Crush app and its policy changes, PrivacyFix will let you know if your privacy has been put at risk.

Social Networking

The following was taken directly from Facebook's privacy policy, "Sometimes we get data from our affiliates or our advertising partners, customers and other third parties that helps us (or them) deliver ads, understand online activity, and generally make Facebook better." For many this is a big price to pay to stay connected with friends and family. Solve this conundrum by opting for other methods with stricter privacy restrictions. For example, Diaspora lets users own and control their own personal data through its free personal web server. You can create a "pod" that hosts social networking services (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and WordPress), all without having to sacrifice your personal information.