Dealing with online tracking When you are online, there are technologies that are working to collect your data. This can be done through email providers, apps on your phones and tablets, search engines, your browsers and the messengers associated with your social media accounts. This information can be rather dangerous in the hands of your abuser – and can be used to affect your privacy, your identity and your space online. Sometimes this information may be collected when you provide it yourself – such as when you sign up or register to be part of something, or when you send emails and pictures because they transmit data like the location, time and details of the sender and receiver. Sometimes, this information can be collected without you knowing – such as data from your phone like your WiFi signals or GPS locations of all the places you’ve visited, or even your browser history. Some ways to deal with this so that you reduce the extent of your vulnerability while you’re online are as follows: - Stay signed out if you’re done with your work on a social media site - Use browser extensions or alter your browser settings to block tracking - Be mindful of what you share and with whom on social media - Check your devices periodically for spyware - Change your passwords regularly to secure ones that can’t be guessed all that easily Get smart with your passwords - Avoid using birthdates, phone numbers and bank account numbers as passwords - Get clever with your passwords – don’t stick to hackneyed combinations - Avoid using the same password across all / multiple accounts - Avoid letting your browser save your password - A good idea is to opt for a pass-phrase / pass-sentence rather than a password - Create a robust combination of letters, symbols and numbers. - Use a two-factor authentication if the platform permits it – this will help you sign in using your password and a secondary piece of data – usually, a one-time password that goes into your phone or email ID. Browser Protection - A good way to see if your browser is safe or not is to head over to Panopticlick and check on what safeguards it has in place for you. - When you’re browsing online, make sure to place a piece of coloured tape over your webcam so that you cannot be seen – should anyone remotely be accessing your camera. - Use the “Do Not Track” option for your browser. If you are on Google Chrome, go to Settings, click on Advanced Settings, head to Privacy and check the box that says “Send Do Not Track request with your browser traffic.” If you are on Firefox, head over to Options, click on Privacy and then head to “Manage your Do Not Track Settings.” On Safari, go to Menu, select Preferences, then Privacy, and then Website tracking, and check the box against “Ask websites not to track me.” If you’re using Internet Explorer, go to Tools, select safety, and then turn on tracking protection, where you check “Enable.” An alternative is to use browsers that automatically block ads and trackers, such as Brave and Tor. - Search engines like DuckDuckGo and StartPage do not track their users. You can use this to avoid being tracked for what you search for. - Private Browsing can also help remain undiscovered. If you’re using Google Chrome, opt for Incognito Mode. It prevents Google Chrome from saving a record of what you visit and download. If you’re using Firefox or Safari, use a New Private Window. For Internet Explorer, the option is to go InPrivate. It helps prevent Internet Explorer from storing data about your browsing session. · Virtual Private Networks: Using VPNs or Virtual Private Networks can help you disguise your IP address, and encrypt all of your internet traffic so that no one can find out what you’re seeing online. Some free VPNs include OkayFreedom (but it supports ads!) and TunnelBear. · Use Browser Extensions: Browser extensions, also called add-ons and plug-ins, can help you extend or customize your browser to suit your needs. You can use add-ons that specifically block third parties from tracking your activities – but be very careful about what add-ons you choose, and go for credible ones, so as not to wind up adding a malicious / spy add-on. Some useful add-ons are: “HTTPS Everywhere” which secures and encrypts your internet traffic; “Privacy Badger” which blocks tracking cookies and “uBlock Origin,” which blocks ads. · Erase your browsing history: You can also make sure that no one follows your session online spying on what you looked up, by erasing your browser history. This is especially useful if you have used a regular browser (as opposed to an in-private browsing / incognito browsing approach) in a public computer. · Use privacy settings in Social Media & Devices: Social media platforms come with privacy and security options. If you are on Facebook, start with the privacy settings to assess where you stand. Facebook gives you three options – “Who can see my stuff?” , “Who can contact me?” and “How do I stop someone from bothering me?” It also lets you pick a two-factor authentication. Each has a set of options you can work with to create a private account. Twitter lets you pick a two-factor authentication, determine who can tag you, and even protect your tweets. You can also mute, block and report handles that are bothering you. Devices Protection - Disable your location to remain undiscovered. If you are using an Android phone, switch off Wireless and GPS location under “Location Services” and mobile data under Settings, then Personal and then, Location. If you’re using an iPhone, switch off Wireless and GPS location by going to Settings, then Privacy and then Location Services, and either turn off all Location Services using the Location Services slider or use the individual sliders for each location-aware app or item on your device. To disable Location Services for all websites, turn off Location Services for the Safari app. Messenger Apps Messenger apps such as WhatsApp and Signal offer end-to-end encryption, which means that you and those you chat with are the only ones who get to read and see the content of your messages. However, meta data, or just data about the data you share, is collected and stored.