Let’s be clear: there is very little privacy on the Internet. And while you think you are not interesting enough to be monitored or spied on – well, you actually are. From Facebook status updates to email snooping and smartphone location tracking – you are closely watched every day, unless you live completely offline or somewhere in a cave.
What is internet surveillance?
You would be surprised how much the Internet knows about you
and how valuable this information can be for certain agencies or subjects. Advertising companies track your online behavior in order to sell you brands, while service providers want to know your preferences so they can offer you more accurate solutions. Governments spy on their citizens – as they claim, in an attempt to catch the bad guys and prevent crimes. Google tracks you, Facebook does the same, even your smart thermostat monitors your movements
around your place. Basically, every step you take in the virtual world is carefully watched, recorded and then used for one purpose or another.
It’s safe to say that the Internet is a surveillance state and it’s likely to stay this way, at least in the nearest future.
Related: What Does the Internet Know About You?
Related: 20 Bad Internet behaviors – and how to fix them
How to avoid surveillance and protect your privacy on the internet
Unfortunately, it is impossible to make yourself 100% anonymous online, because we leave our digital trails everywhere we go. Basically, every web page you visit, every ad you click on, like or share is carefully monitored, recorded and usually sold.
However, there are a number of steps you can take to protect your private data and stay off the surveillance radar as far as possible.
Alter your behavior to minimize digital surveillance
Although many of us see internet spying as a threat to our privacy and human rights, we actually give away huge amounts of our personal information without even blinking.
While entering your personal details for a discount on your favorite brand may not sound that insecure, remember that this information can be used for completely different purposes than you have agreed on. Wondering why you keep receiving those annoying advertising messages to your phone? Your number was simply sold, that’s why.
So think twice before performing these very common and not-secure-at-all online actions:
- checking your bank account on public Wi-Fi
- tagging your exact location when posting pictures
- emailing your sensitive information (e.g. passwords, PIN codes)
- opening an email attachment from a sender you don’t know personally
- clicking on every banner and flashy pop-up
- using the same password for all your accounts
- using a weak password (your name, surname, 12345, password123, etc.)
- accepting cookies when visiting random websites
- skipping terms and conditions (especially when downloading apps to your device)
- trading your email, home address or phone number for a special offer
Take extra steps to protect yourself while online
Once you’ve fixed your insecure online habits, you may want to step further to enhance your privacy and make yourself as secure as possible. While some of these security measures are extremely easy to implement, others may require minimal technical knowledge, but be sure – they are worth it!
Here’s what you can do right now:
- create strong passwords, especially for your sensitive accounts
- update your antivirus software
- configure your browser to delete cookies every time you close it
- secure your accounts with two-factor authentication or two-step verification
- use some sort of screen protection, whether a pattern, pin or password
- switch to a secure search engine that doesn’t log your info (e.g. DuckDuckGo)
- set your browser to the incognito mode
- turn location services off on your smartphone
Encrypt your data and online communications
Although privacy-cautious internet users can’t even imagine going online without encrypting their internet traffic, many still know very little about true benefits of this feature. To put it simple: encryption is the act of scrambling data, so it makes no sense to those who try to intercept and read it. Thus, when choosing security tools, make sure they offer an end-to-end encryption
. Here are a few worth considering:
- Cryptocat for secure messaging
- Spideroak for safe data storage
- SilentPhone for making encrypted calls
- Tutanota for sending emails privately
- Tor browser for anonymous internet surfing
Another way to avoid surveillance is to simply quit using the internet. Or you can stop racking your brains and get a reliable VPN service
such as NordVPN. It will hide your IP address and encrypt your communications with strong security protocols. No one, not even your internet service provider (ISP), will be able to see and log what you do on the web.
Avoid internet surveillance and enhance your privacy with a top-notch VPN.