Reclaim your privacy with these seven tips on how to be safe online
How many times have you immediately hunted for the “ACCEPT” button after reading the words, “Terms of Service”? We’ve all done it. But as technology plays an ever-increasing role in our lives, so do the privacy policies connected to those technologies. By no means should everyone read every word of the dreaded Terms of Service, but it’s important to remember that our online actions are directly tied to our personal identities. Here are Tech Tuesday’s top seven ways to ensure your privacy in 2015.
- Use 2-Step Verification. When you log into your Gmail, your Facebook, or even your bank account, usually you only have to enter a username and password. This isn’t really the safest way to do it –– what if someone guesses your password? 2-step verification adds an additional level of security by sending a code to a trusted device, usually your phone, that you have to enter after your correct username and password. The code, usually a string of numbers, is different every time you log in. This adds an extra step to prove you are who you say you are –– to crack into your account, you need to have the account username and password, plus that person’s phone, their most precious gadget of all. This adds an entirely new level of verification, where your phone acts as a personal identifier.
- Get a Password Manager. No one likes remembering passwords. Be honest –– how many accounts do you use the same password for? Password managers like 1Password and LastPass make this dilemma a thing of the past. Password managers serve a few purposes: they remember your passwords for you, usually in a secure, backed up place, and they help you create new, more secure passwords that you don’t have to remember because they do it for you. A relatively new service from Dashlane called Password Changer will even hook into your accounts and change all of your passwords to updated, more secure versions.
- Customize privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other social media. Before you make your last name on Facebook your middle name, consider changing your privacy settings. Despite the notorious fog surrounding Facebook’s privacy policies, it’s actually pretty simple to manage who can find your profile through search, what strangers can see on your profile, and even what your friends can see, among other important privacy points. Students hunting for jobs should be especially wary of this, and should also consider making their Twitter or Instagram accounts private. Even Snapchat offers complete control over who can view your Story, so you can keep prying eyes from seeing your selfies.
- Know and understand your phone’s location settings. Did you know that your phone is probably tracking your location right now? It seems like every app requests for location services these days. Android does a pretty good job job of informing what an app will do before you download, but iOS is another story. Privacy concerned iPhone users should be particularly aware of the “Frequent Locations” setting on their phone, which keeps track of where you are and how long you’ve been there for, presumably for advertising or eventual world domination. Open the "Settings" app, scroll down to "Privacy" and tap "Location Services." Scroll to the bottom, tap "System Services," and tap "Frequent Locations." Freak out for a second before you turn that setting off forever.
- Consider privacy-minded Messenger apps. For some people, better passwords or privacy settings might not be enough. After seeing ads for things I talked about in private Facebook messages on other websites, I know I’m a little skeptical of what’s being done with my data. Wary users should consider using a privacy-focused messaging app. Two examples are Telegram Messenger, which allows users to have chats that self-destruct a la Snapchat, and Inbox Messenger, which lets users unsend messages or hide messages from prying eyes. Maybe even consider Snapchat’s built-in messenger.
- Know how to quickly find your phone if you lose it. Responsible phone users should make sure they know and understand how their phone’s device locator works — iPhone users have Find my iPhone and Android users have the Android Device Manager. In the case you lose your phone, you should know how to quickly log into the appropriate tool so you can locate your phone and lock other people out from accessing it without your permission.
- Think before you post. This is the most basic, but also the most important advice. Is that funny thing that just happened in class really worth telling all your friends? Do you absolutely need to tweet complaining about how tired you are? Does that embarrassing photo of your friend really belong on Instagram for the whole world to see? Don’t hold back too much, but consider the implications of sharing something to the internet — because no matter how hard you try to keep it private, once it’s on the internet, it’s online forever.
Tyler Gold is a senior majoring in Information Technology and Informatics. Have suggestions on how to keep safe in the digital age, or want more updates on tech? Follow him on Twitter @tylergold.