While there are some best practices for information privacy that all technology users should try to adopt, many other practices are a matter of personal choice. You can set up your web browser to store your history indefinitely, or clear it as soon as you close the window. (Note: if you’re using on a public computer like the ones at the library, it’s never a good idea to save your browsing history.) Depending on which mobile device you use, you can protect it with a 4-digit numerical passcode, a longer alphanumerical password, touch ID, or even a unique gesture based on a picture.
One tool that allows almost endless customization is the browser extension Privacy Badger, which blocks the third party trackers that enable advertisers to follow you from site to site. (Have you noticed an ad for those shoes you searched for yesterday in your Facebook sidebar today?) Once you’ve installed Privacy Badger in Firefox or Chrome, you can tell it to stop blocking a third party source that you recognize as trustworthy, or start blocking one it missed.
Of course, you could spend hours adjusting your settings and customizing your tools, only to be blindsided by an altered software reconfiguration, policy, user agreement, or law. To avoid surprises, consider performing a personal privacy “audit” every two to three months. Mark it on your calendar or set an alarm so you don’t forget!
- Start by reviewing your browser, device, app, and social media settings. Search “privacy” and the name of each program or device to get the latest information on available settings.
- Check for software updates, especially those that keep your antivirus and antimalware programs Don’t forget your mobile apps, whose updates frequently contain security patches!
- Clear unneeded activity logs, browsing history, and other data from your computer. A free program like CCleaner or BleachBit can expedite this process. Use their defaults, or set your own preferences; as with so many other privacy practices, the choice is yours.
This blog post was written for Choose Privacy Week, a national awareness program of the American Library Association that focuses on information privacy rights in the digital age.