Face it, privacy is a hot topic these days in all layers of society. The world is watching every move you make, not only online but also offline. People tend to forget that in their daily business or are surprisingly unaware of it. We are the generation that should change the public opinion about what privacy is and how companies can use our private data. Because the big buzz word “big data” is actually a translation of “your data” chopped into bits and binary that is able to predict your next move even more accurate than yourself, partner or family. Scary isn’t it? Let’s try to reclaim our private data with my guide to privacy.
Reading time: ~5 minutes
Implementation time 90% privacy: ~15 minutes
Implementation time 100% privacy: ~60 minutes
How are we going off the grid?
As said before, we should make people aware of the fact that big corporations like Google, Facebook, Linkedin, Uber, Microsoft, and all their substitutes are following you online. In addition, governments are making use of the technologies developed by these corporations and collect private data about your habits and movements. Just to maintain crowd control and order, and no it’s not only the Chinese, Russian or other authoritarian regimes that do it. In the United States, Britain, Europe and other well developed countries it’s happening just as much. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this meta overview of surveillance states around the world.
By now you are probably worried about your own privacy online, which is a legitimate concern as even I am tracking you along the way through my website. I know how long you’re staying on my website, what pages you visit, your ip, geo-location, what browser and device you are using, your average age and interests. All anonymized as big data. Scary isn’t it? But we’re going to change that. By adopting the following toolset you’ll be off the grid in no time and your private matters will be your own again. Follow the steps in my guide to privacy and reclaim those constitutional rights that are getting abused.
Six steps to 100% privacy online
By implementing the following programs or practices you’ll create breadcrumbs for companies like Google, Facebook and governments that lead to nowhere or even completely block them in stealing your private data. Let’s make the web safe again, for ourselves and our children as we are all easily manipulated by the big companies.
Step 1: Download an Ad blocker for your browser
Of course this is the first step to freedom online, my website isn’t called ads-blocker.com just for fun. You can download the best ad blockers available online (for free) on my website. I can recommend you uBlock Origin as this plugin will also block Adwords and BingAds in the search engine results. Next to that it’s also blocking Google Analytics tracking, which is great as now the majority of the websites can’t track you while browsing the web. The uBlock Origin ad blocker is a free plugin and you can thank me later. So what browser do you use? I have the ad blockers available for Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge and others.
Luckily the majority of corporations is still oblivious for the latter or are too slow to adapt. But it does show us that an ad blocker alone isn’t enough to defend your privacy. So let’s crumble their data into mashed potato with the following steps.
Step 2: Use DuckDuckGo as a search engine
DuckDuckGo is a perfect example of a privacy fighter. They are the sole search engine that is tracking absolutely nothing. So all your searches are safe, unlike with Google, Bing, Yandex, Baidu or others.
Now you’re probably going to complain that DuckDuckGo isn’t as accurate as Google or Bing. But think about your last searches online. How many of them are the really difficult ones? Majority will be about; where is Timbuktu, how many people live in Amsterdam, who is that weird grey president of The United States (seriously Americans stop voting for grandpa’s) and so on. DuckDuckGo can easily without errors provide you those answers. Don’t think I explained this well enough? Read on via Wired why you should ditch Google for DuckDuckGo.
How to change? Just change the default search engine of your browser from Google/Bing/Yahoo or whatever monitoring search engine you’re using to DuckDuckGo. On their site they even help you with the install, when you land on the homepage, with a small popup. Just a few clicks away from searching all that naught stuff without big brother watching you. That wasn’t too hard right? Let’s move on to step 3 in our quest for privacy! Now we’ll proceed to the more hardcore privacy stuff.
Step 3: Install a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Are you wondering why your employer wants you to use a VPN nowadays for business operations that are managed from home? There are two reasons for this, one is personal and the other is more focused at data safety.
Firstly, by installing a VPN you’ll create havoc in the data of everything you do online. How? The VPN will masks your location (ip) to a virtual randomized one in the world. This makes it impossible for websites to follow you based on your geo-location. I can recommend you NordVPN as this one is cheap, easy to use on every device and doesn’t slow down your internet.
Unfortunately, cookies will still be present and able to remember you on returning visits unless you have an ad blocker installed. So a VPN + ad blocker is the away to go to disrupt almost everything and protect your privacy online.
Secondly, your employer wants you to make sure the company data is safely stored behind a wall of protection, which is offered by the VPN. You can only access the data from a managed IP address by your employer which ensure a managed online environment. Everyone trying to enter that managed environment will get noticed by the IT nerds (no offence brothers) at the office and potentially blocked if they aren’t able to prove they are employee. Effectively blocking them in reaching/stealing sensitive business information. You can of course also apply this practice to your own netwerk at home. But that is a story about IT security rather than masking your online DNA profile.
Why you want a VPN;
- You can access blocked sources or websites from countries that restrict their Internet usage like China or Russia, as you’ll just select a country that has less censorship online as your source of origin.
- You can view episodes of your favorite series that aren’t available in your country on Netflix, by selecting a country via your VPN that does have them in the inventory.
- VPN’s are used by big companies to protect their own data, it’s now also available for everyone to protect theirs.
- Back in the days a VPN often slowed down your Internet, NordVPN doesn’t slow down your surfing speed. You can even limit this further by choosing a server near you.
Stil got some questions about a VPN? Here are the answers on your FAQs about VPNs.
Using a VPN is probably the easiest way for 99% of the people to hide their internet usage. However, the VPN provider will know your IP address and if a government forcibly asks them to hand it over. They will have to obey the law and show your real geolocation based on your ip. Fear not! You can fix this by using Tor, this program will route your signal through a series of nodes, each of which is only aware of the ip addresses ‘in front’ of the node and ‘behind’ it. This way nobody can know the full path between your device and the website you are trying to connect with. It does slow down your internet speed.
Step 4: The great Pi hole
The Raspberry Pi Hole is the One. It’s the only ad blocker that blocks every third party injected into your network. This little device and program blocks everything from third parties on a network level (before it enters your home via your router). Meaning that no advertisements will ever get through unless the websites hosts them on their own server (what almost nobody does). However, might they host it on their own servers we already dealt with that by using a VPN to scramble their data. The Pi hole is the true ad blocker and ensures a safe and fast browsing environment. You can easily buy a cheap Raspberry Pi on Amazon.com and install Pi Hole on it.
Read my guide on how to install a Pi hole ad blocker on your Raspberry.
Step 5: Delete Google Chrome
These jokers at Google can’t be serious… Firefox & Safari are blocking third party cookies by default since 2019 but guess what Google Chrome doesn’t. It’s their intention to do it within the next two years (jep it’s 2020 now). That is just a big middle finger to everybody that is concerned about their private data being resold. During the next two years Google will be cooking up something evil again to circumvent the third party cookies blocking via Google Chrome. You’ll probably need to agree on another malicious endlessly long terms and conditions that nobody reads, eventually selling your secrets again. Please guys just stop supporting them, there is no need as the alternatives are mighty fine. Just download Firefox or Safari, it’s free!
Step 6 install Signal and delete Whatsapp
Yep, ditch Whatsapp as fast as you can. This messaging app is reading all your private messages and sending them to the big Facebook manipulation machine. Isn’t it a coincidence you get ads on Instagram and Facebook when you chatted about your new shoes or kitchen-aid with your friends on Whatsapp? Yep, thats the meta-tracking baby!
The fix? Use Signal as a messenger. Signal encrypts your messages end-to-end and nobody is able to decipher the information. Calling, texting or sending voice and video messages has never been so safe. You can read more about Signal on their own website Signal.org. Fun fact, it works exactly the same as Whatsapp, no difference.
Step 7 hide your bank account information
Yep, the hype is real I know. Cryptocurrencies are booming and Bitcoin has a higher value than ever before. Reality is that the blockchain is there to be as transparant as possible but can also be used to anonymized transactions. Which is exactly what we are trying to do. The largest cryptocurrency exchange Binance can help you mask payments online. This is especially helpful when you live in a country without solid laws and lots of corruption. But the most obvious reason is of course that you don’t want banks to sell your purchase history to Amazon or Google in order for them to make targeted ads even more effective and personal.
Is that all?
Ooow no I’m not done, not nearly. But I was just too lazy to finish this article but didn’t wanna wait putting it online as we need to stop the collection of private data by companies and governments. Come back later for more extensive tips and tricks on matters around privacy online. Still need to talk extensively about the Tor network, Intelligence Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Enhanced Tracking Prevention (ETP) for example.
A lot of people always ask me why I show ads on my website. I don’t know as I can’t see them *hint*.