Online privacy is an oxymoron. For example, there is an advertiser ID on your phone that is designed to keep your location anonymous. Are you surprised this isn’t the case? Neither do I. Tap or click here for steps to view and remove your advertiser ID.
It’s not always advertisers and big tech espionage. A stranger or someone you know could be poking around in your accounts. Tap or click for a quick check you need to do to keep your Facebook, Google, and Netflix accounts safe.
Data protection cannot be taken for granted. Here are five ways you can take back as much as possible:
1. Everyone’s least favorite is cookies
You collect cookies when you surf the internet on your phone, computer or tablet. These bits of data store information about the websites you visit. Cookies store your logins, personalization preferences, advertising information and other details.
The advantage is that cookies store images and files and prevent you from having to log in every time you visit a website. But these cookies contain a lot of your data. Fortunately, you can manually delete cookies in a few steps.
Tap or click here to delete cookies from your phone. Click this link for steps on how to delete cookies from your computer’s browser.
Better yet, use incognito mode. When you browse the Internet incognito, your browser does not save your history, cookies, website data, or information you enter into forms. It keeps any downloaded files or bookmarks created during the session.
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Be warned: your internet service provider can still see your activity, as can a school or employer who provides your internet access or computer.
To go incognito to Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge, press Ctrl + Shift + N (or Command+Shift+N on the Mac). Triple-tap or triple-click to always browse incognito mode.
For even more privacy, start a VPN. A virtual private network, or VPN, is a layer of protection between your devices and the internet. It hides your IP address and location. It also encrypts your data after you leave your device and go to any website you visit.
Don’t even think about using a free VPN. At best, it lacks the necessary privacy features and will slow you down. At worst, it hides malware or tracks your information. My choice is ExpressVPN, the VPN I used before they sponsored my national radio show.
2. Your emails are a wealth of information
Just think of everything that’s in your inbox. In the wrong hands, these digital messages can wreak havoc.
Encryption is a method to protect your email from hackers, criminals and prying eyes. It is a process of encrypting your email messages. So when hackers manage to intercept them, all they see is gibberish.
Well-known email services like Gmail and Yahoo do not offer end-to-end encryption. Encryption is difficult to implement and generally requires the participation of all correspondents. The process isn’t seamless if your email is encrypted but mine isn’t. Eventually your message will be vulnerable.
If encrypting your email is essential, you need to switch to a secure service like StartMail, ProtonMail, Mailfence, Tutanota or Hushmail.
Use Gmail? You can send a confidential email. Emails sent in confidential mode cannot be forwarded, and you can choose whether a recipient must use a passcode to read them. Tap or click here and scroll to #3 for steps to try it yourself.
3. Watch your apps wherever you go
Your phone knows exactly where you have been for the last few days, weeks and even months. If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at your phone’s location settings, do it now.
Check this hidden location setting on your iPhone:
• Click settingsthen privacy.
• Choose location servicesand then scroll down to system services.
• Choose Major Locations to view the record of where you’ve been and turn it off.
To adjust location settings on an Android:
• Open settingsthen scroll down and tap location.
• To stop all tracking, you can toggle Use location off.
• If you don’t want to remove all permissions, tap App Location Permissions.
• For each app, tap to select your preferred setting: Always allow, Only allow while using the app, Ask every time, or Don’t allow. You can also decide whether an app sees your exact location or an approximate location.
4. Your TV will see you right back
sorry to tell you Your streaming services also track your activity. It makes sense. Netflix, Hulu, and everyone else want to know what shows you enjoy so they can recommend content you enjoy and are happy to pay for.
However, monitoring is not to your advantage. Streaming services track your viewing history and the ads you watch or skip. Then they share this data with advertisers.
Tap or click here for step-by-step instructions on clearing your history on Netflix, Hulu, and more.
If you have a smart TV, you need to check important settings there as well. Tap or click to stop your Samsung, LG, Amazon Fire TV, or Roku TV from spying.
5. Stop sharing everything you buy and browse
Google always seems to know exactly what you want, and it’s not in your head. Google tracks every search, click, message, and request. Clear your search history and activity from time to time. Here’s how:
• Go to myaccount.google.com and sign in. Alternatively, go to google.com and click the circle icon in the top right corner with your picture or initials inside. Then click Manage your Google account.
• Click data privacy in the left menu.
• Check marks appear next to web and app activity, location history, and YouTube history. Click on each one to customize your settings. Switch them out to stop further tracking if you so wish.
These pages also allow you to set up automatic deletion for future activity. I strongly recommend you enable this. You can choose between three months, 18 months or 36 months.
Do not stop. Tap or click for more Google privacy settings you can change now.
PODCAST CHOICE: Clone dead voices, crypto scams, jacuzzi hacks
Do you want your dead grandmother to read you a story? If Amazon’s new Alexa AI feature comes to life, you could clone dead voices. Also, hackers are taking over hot tubs, Anna Sorokin is selling non-fungible tokens, and the FBI warns about crypto scams on LinkedIn. You won’t believe how much money big tech companies are making per minute.
Watch my Kim Komando Today podcast on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcast player.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name “Komando”.
Learn about the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and shares advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. Visit her website at Komando.com for her daily tips, free newsletters and more.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.