3 Actionable Steps to Improving Your Online Privacy Right Now
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You’re worried about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. You know you’re being tracked by advertisers each time you go online. And your operating system is recording your online activity and searches.

This isn’t privacy, it’s surveillance. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can improve your online privacy right now in just three steps.

You’re the Product and You’re for Sale

Considering the risks from viruses, keyloggers, and ransomware, dealing with online security is bad enough. Having online privacy issues on top of this is more than inconvenient. After all, what business is it of online services that you don’t subscribe to just what websites you use, where you go offline, and who you’re friends with?

Well, the problem is, you’ve given them permission to keep records of these things. By signing up for free accounts, these permissions are implied. These accounts might be free, but they come with a cost.

It’s a phrase you might have heard before today. If not, then I suggest you repeat it a couple of times, as you consider all of the free accounts to online services that you own.

They’re not really free at all, are they?

The companies impeding your privacy with the greatest frequency are household names. By rejecting their tactics, you can help abandon them (or at least their privacy-breaching business model) to history.

It’s time to say “goodbye” to Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.

Step 1: Abandon Facebook

You’ve probably seen the adverts: Facebook is sorry. They didn’t mean to be cruel to you, and are working hard to make it up to you and make their service better…

Better at what?

Listen, we’re way beyond trusting Facebook. Sure, there may be reasons to stick with the service, but the best thing you can do is stop using Facebook Why You Should Stop Using Facebook in 2018 Why You Should Stop Using Facebook in 2018 Times have changed, and it might be time for us to stop using Facebook. Here are five reasons why. Read More .

After all, we were only just coming to terms with the Cambridge Analytica scandal (your Facebook data was used to influence political campaigns) and the fact that Facebook was spying on your instant messages

Quitting Facebook will improve your online privacy considerably. You’ll reduce your exposure to online ads, to scammers, and to cyber stalkers. But if you absolutely need it to stay in touch with people who for some reason can’t use email, then at least take the time to manage your Facebook privacy settings It's Now Easier to Manage Your Facebook Privacy Settings It's Now Easier to Manage Your Facebook Privacy Settings Facebook is making it easier to manage your privacy settings. You might still want to delete Facebook, but the social network clearly hopes you won't. Read More .

Step 2: Abandon Google

You may have used Google to find this article. Perhaps you have Gmail, or a Google Drive. There’s an over 50 percent chance that you’re using an Android device, which you’ve tied your Google account to.

Google is everywhere. Search, advertising, smartphones and computers, the Internet of Things. Its tentacles reach everywhere; Google knows everything about you. Over time, it can even form a history of you, a record of the things you’ve done.

It might even predict what you do next. Perhaps it already has. Along with Facebook, Google is the biggest privacy drain out there. Providing a unifying force of big business versus Joe Public, it is the facility by which we can be tracked (online and offline), and oils the wheels for every purchase we make, whether we need the item or not.

No wonder Google dropped its “Don’t be evil” motto.

You should be deeply concerned about Google’s knowledge. It’s worth taking the time to clear your Google account and regain your privacy. While you’re at it, grab your mobile and do something about Android ads.

You don’t even really need Google on your Android device. Android is based on AOSP, an open source mobile operating system. As such, you can remove Google from your phone How to Remove Google Accounts From Your Phone and Reclaim Privacy How to Remove Google Accounts From Your Phone and Reclaim Privacy Remove your Google account from your Android device or iPhone is a good first step towards reclaiming your privacy. Read More . While you’re fixing your Google-related privacy issues, meanwhile, take the time to quit Gmail. It’s hard, but you have strong alternatives like privacy-minded ProtonMail Gmail vs. ProtonMail: Which Email Client Is Best for You? Gmail vs. ProtonMail: Which Email Client Is Best for You? While Gmail may be the most convenient email client, ProtonMail is more secure. Which one is right for you? We'll help you find out with this comparison. Read More , developed by CERN and MIT scientists with end-to-end encryption.

Step 3: Abandon Microsoft

We’re not taking sides here. The tech giant has been a part of our lives for years, and since the late 1990s it has successfully wormed its way into our homes, fulfilling its founder Bill Gates’ dream of a PC in every home.

Over the years, Microsoft has been at the center of a number of online security controversies. Often, these problems were down to poor security on the Windows operating system. While this is problem that has been largely left in the past, security issues in Windows have been supplanted by privacy issues.

Note: This isn’t true only of Windows 10. While older versions of Windows were less clear about what was collected, these days you’re at least given an idea of just how much data they collect.

Windows 10 is designed like a desktop version of Android. It records a vast volume of data about your activities; you have a unique tracking reference for advertisers. Windows 10 features pre-installed apps that you don’t need, as ever, but it also includes pop-ups for apps you might be interested in installing.

You can find out more about how Windows 10 is impacting your privacy by checking our Windows 10 privacy guide Privacy and Windows 10: Your Guide to Windows Telemetry Privacy and Windows 10: Your Guide to Windows Telemetry With the advent of the Windows 10 Creator's Update, Microsoft seems to have decided to be more transparent about their data gathering activities. Find out how much is gathered, and what you can do. Read More . When you’re done reading that, take the time to follow our guide to Windows 10 privacy settings The Complete Guide to Windows 10 Privacy Settings The Complete Guide to Windows 10 Privacy Settings Do you know how much personal data you're actually sharing when using Windows 10? We show you every single Windows 10 privacy setting and what they mean. Read More —or better yet, switch to Linux and never look back 5 Things You Should Know When Switching to Linux 5 Things You Should Know When Switching to Linux Planning to switch to Linux? While it isn't any harder to use than Windows, it is different. Here are five things you should know when switching to Linux. Read More .

It Won’t Be Easy, But Online Privacy Is Worth It

Binning these three companies, minimizing their effect on your life, probably won’t solve privacy issues. But it will deal with the overwhelming majority of them.

All you need to do is take the time to decouple from Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, and start enjoying your life without worrying about where the next privacy breach is coming from.

If you want to go further, first educate yourself with these online privacy resources Why Online Privacy Matters and 5 Ways to Reclaim It Why Online Privacy Matters and 5 Ways to Reclaim It Privacy threats are all around us. Today, the impact and dangers of online privacy breaches are major. These few resources explain the pitfalls clearly and concisely. Read More .

Explore more about: Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Online Privacy.

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  1. John Haubrich
    September 2, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    This article was worthless, why not consider suicide it would also solve all those security problems. The author would be better employed as a dog catcher And the editor could be his assistant. I expect so much more from your articles.

  2. Learjet
    July 30, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    Abandon LIFE. What, you want us to live like it's 1978? No thank you. I'll survive. Millions do.

  3. Nonreality
    July 28, 2018 at 2:09 am

    While I agree with the problem, I don't agree with your solution. I think that you should use what you want but realize it's happening and do your best to use the tools they give is to at least be as protected as you can be. The big thing is to be aware of the problem and then be smart about using the services. I mean that you can't just be stupid what you post. If you put something out there,it's out to haunt you forever. Ads are going to be gathering info but you can somewhat make them about stuff you actual are interested in. There's no perfect answer but but you can use these apps with some degree of care and awareness.

  4. Gazoo
    July 27, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Food for thought...

    Another aspect of profiling and targeting users, is the ability to control their worldview. Lately we're seeing more browsers, for example, include news feeds in their default startup page. We've already seen online sources censor information, push agendas that align with their own political views (or those of their anonymous partners).

    Money and power have always gone hand-in-hand. Historically, it's power that matters once wealth has already been accumulated. While targeting users for ads is the common argument for "legitimate" spyware, these same profiles will be used for agenda-driven purposes: currently it's politically-based.

  5. dragonmouth
    July 27, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    "If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."
    That should be "If you're on the Internet, you are the product". Are you so naive as to believe that even when you are paying for sites and services, you are not being sold?!

    "Step 2: Abandon Google"
    Much easier said than done. Many browser and other apps are using Google's Safe Browsing application to ostensibly make browsing safer for the users. Unfortunately, Safe Browsing tracks every site users go to and sends to info to the mother ship. You may explicitly stop using all Google products. However, you cannot opt out of the Google apps that are part of other applications that you use every day. As you say, Google's tentacles reach everywhere.