Is online privacy thing of the past? By Ray Walsh Posted on June 16, 2019 1 min read 0 6,081 Nowadays, the internet is under constant surveillance. As a result, it is extremely hard to do anything online with privacy. Legislation passed by governments around the world, force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to perform mandatory data retention. This allows ISPs to track consumer web browsing habits and to retain all of citizens’ communications metadata. International agreements (such as FIVE EYES) permit governments to bypass local laws using loopholes. As a result, foreign governments work with one another to perform extra surveillance. As if government snooping wasn’t enough, consumers are also exposed to high levels of corporate surveillance. Google, Facebook, Microsoft – and many other firms – use data to create a revenue stream. That data is often sold to advertising partners or marketing firms, who may disseminate it even further. In the US, ISPs are permitted to sell users’ web browsing habits to third parties to extract a profit. This may result in data being sold to copyright holders, for example. With so much government and corporate surveillance occurring, it is important for consumers to carefully consider how they use the internet. With some simple behavioral modifications, it is possible to regain a lot of online privacy. Let’s take a look… 1. Use a VPN A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an online service that encrypts all the data coming and going from your devices. This securely scrambles all of your data so that your ISP is unable to perform any data retention. A VPN also conceals your IP address from the websites you visit, which means that they do not know where you really are. This combination of encryption and geo-spoofing provides high levels of digital privacy. 2. Use a private search engine When you search online using Google or Bing, those companies amass a lot of crucial information about you. Your web searches can tell a firm a lot about you, especially over time. For this reason, it is much better to begin using a private search engine such as StartPage or DuckDuckGo. Those secure search engines are designed to allow users to escape censorship – this gives them better search results. In addition, those firms promise not to track their users. 3. Use Tor to gain anonymity While VPNs provide high levels of privacy, it is vital to use Tor anytime that you require anonymity online. While this may not be essential for most people, activists, journalists, students, political dissidents, lawyers, and many other people may need total anonymity from time to time. When this is the case Tor Onion browser is the best technology to employ. Tor works by encrypting your data and bouncing your connection to the internet around a large number of volunteer nodes. As a result, it becomes extremely hard (almost impossible) to track who is doing what online. 4. Use a secure browser Common browsers such as Chrome, Edge, and Safari all collect user data. As a result, even using a private search engine with these browsers could be creating a “paper trail”. Thus, for anybody who wants to use the internet with added privacy, it is important to move away from those surveillance-heavy browsers. Click here for more information on the best secure browsers. 5. Make use of privacy browser extensions Once you have selected a secure and private browser such as Firefox, you can further improve your experience by adding privacy extensions to it. Adblock Plus is everybody’s favorite ad blocker, and it will help you to avoid a lot of annoying adverts. However, if you want to avoid tracking you will also need to use a script blocker such as UMatrix, or EFF’s excellent plugin Privacy Badger. Ghostery is another excellent tool that can allow you to avoid a lot of online tracking. And, to ensure that your VPN doesn’t suffer any WebRTC leaks, the Easy WebRTC Block tool is another excellent option.