Privacy supporters throughout the nation let out a mutual sigh last week when Congress undid a set of internet privacy rules that were put in place during the Obama era. Basically, the Republicans just provided large telecom corporations unrestricted access to your browsing history as well as even letting ISPs sell any data collected for profit.
Don’t worry there are ways to get by. Using a Tor or a virtual private network (VPN) are two of the better options you have to preserve your privacy. But, several of the privacy tips going around the internet in lieu of Congresses’ s most recent debacle are not only immoral, they’re flat out wrong and possibly dangerous.
That being said here are the top three awful privacy tips circulating the web.
1. Does deleting your browsing history help protect you?
This seems to make sense, even enough sense that political groups with thousands and thousands of followers are pushing individuals to do it. The problem with this is that deleting your browsing history most certainly doesn’t prevent ISPs, the government as well as advertiser’s from tracking you on the internet.
Here is the main reason why this isn’t true. That “delete history” option in your web browser will only delete your browser data on your local hard drive. In reality, there is still some data hanging around, even though it’s hidden in your DNS cache. Restarting your computer will clear this data; however it will already be too late. There are numerous entities advertisers, the government, and ISP’s that store your browsing history in real time. That data is only a search warrant away from being discovered. Companies are able to use the data to provide you with more relevant ads or they can basically sell it to a marketer even without a warrant.
Incidentally, deleting your browsing history can affect your hard drive. Google is good at saving all that data. The best way to search the internet without being tracked is to use the DuckDuckGo search engine.
That being said there is no reason for you to delete your browser history in the quest of privacy. As soon as you open your browser without using a VPN you’ve already permitted strangers to spy on you. While a VPN can provide better protection than clearing your history, they aren’t entirely resistant to snooping.
2. Does using an incognito window help protect you?
While Apple, Google and Mozilla suggest that it does, but in all actuality it doesn’t. That’s not to say that incognito and private browsing windows don’t offer you an additional layer of privacy, because it won’t allow the auto-fill to work and your searches won’t be saved on the local hard drive. Nonetheless, this is about the only advantage incognito provides when it comes to your privacy. Essentially what this means for you is that all of your browsing activity is still being tracked by apps, advertisers, the government, ISP’s, and websites.
You need to use Tor if you are looking want a true private browsing experience. Tor provides an anonymous internet service with a few layers of protection, hiding your identity and online activity from the government and large corporations that are always snooping.
3. Does installing an ad blocker help protect you?
This appears somewhat counterintuitive and that’s why it’s unsafe. Ad blockers such as 1Block and AdBlock Plus stop third parties from running certain scripts that are able to detect where you are and the things that you like. The safeguard is anything but complete. Nevertheless, ad blocking software is intended to block ads and stop malware from loading in your browser.
There are other extensions and add-ons that are specifically aimed to protect your privacy. Disconnect, Do Not Track Me, and Privacy Badger are just a few examples. While they are a decent option to help protect you there are a couple of reasons to be cautious. First, they don’t provide the same level of security as a Tor or VPN. Second, this type of software has been known to be hacked. While I’m against letting Google or my ISP having my information it would be much worse if a hacker was able to attain this same information.
In a nutshell, get a VPN or Tor if you enjoy your privacy and try not to listen to those who tell you otherwise.