One of my pet peeves is how little people seem to care about online privacy. Or even offline piracy, for that matter. However, what people do offline is beyond the purview of this newsletter. Online privacy though… that is something people should care about way more than they do.
Annoying ads that follow you everywhere you surf are the least of your browsing worries. Shady brokers on the Internet (think Meta, Google et al) use your digital footprint to build out a profile unique to you and then fashion an echo chamber around it that reinforces your perspective on a topic, no matter how wrong it may be.
Did you search for climate change and then click on a link saying climate change is not real? Congrats, you’ve taken the first step to becoming a climate change denier. Did you accidentally share that post on Facebook about Covid vaccines causing brain mutations? Congrats, you will soon become a vaccine denier. No, these are not hypotheticals. Stuff like this has already happened, leading to disastrous real-world events everywhere. The Rohingya genocide in Myanmar? Facebook is to blame. Your next-door neighbour doesn’t believe climate change is the existential risk it is? Blame Twitter. More here on how social echo chambers spread fake news and cause false beliefs to become deeply entrenched.
Today’s post, however, is not about echo chambers. Instead, it is about how to ensure you don’t fall into one. Using your first line of defence against this plague. What is that, you ask? Why, your internet browser, of course.
Tip 1: Are you using Google Chrome? Immediately log out of it and then permanently uninstall it. Whatever privacy tweaks you may activate on Chrome, your data is nevertheless visible to Google.
Tip 2: Install an ad-blocking, privacy-protecting extension. I recommend Ghostery and DuckDuckGo both. I recommend making DuckDuckGo your default browser with its default settings activated on mobile devices. This alone will save you from a whole host of malicious players online trying to worm their way into your digital life.
Tip 3: Run Privacy Analyzer. It conducts a variety of tests to gauge the safety of your browser. All you need to do is click a button, and within seconds, this tool will give you detailed reports explaining what the websites you visit know about you.
Tip 4: Install a Password Manager. I recommend 1Password, which has never (yet) been hacked and creates spectacularly strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts. It also plays very well with your browsers, allowing you to create secure passwords without compromising the convenience of use.
Tip 5: Set up 2FA on all your accounts. Sure, critics of 2FA will say it is prone to attacks and susceptible to SIM spoofing, among other drawbacks. But, with the rare outlier of an exception, Two-Factor Authentication adds a level of protection to your accounts that is pretty much unmatchable. Oh, recommendations? Authy, of course. Please don’t use Google or Microsoft.
Sorry about the longish post but I hope you do take these tips to heart and secure your browser. And please, avoid all dodgy sites.
PS: If you know someone tripping on the dark side, forward this to them and ask them to sign up for Just One Thing, the Least Dodgy Site On The Internet™.