Four Tips to Protect Your Online Privacy and Digital Footprint

Degrees2Dreams Protecting Your Online Privacy CC photo by kennethkonicaQueue the Pink Panther theme song… “Da Na da Na da na da na da na…” Inspector Jacques Clouseau’s next case: Tracking your every online move.

Unfortunately for us, we don’t have the bumbling Inspector Clouseau on our case. Instead, our every move is being tracked by a nearly flawless, always relentless, and extremely capable  new inspector in town: online tracking. The increasing tracking capabilities of today’s Internet combined with the driving demands of advertisers to learn every possible detail of every internet user have pushed Internet privacy limits to the edge.

For example: You’re catching up on your friends’ Facebook posts and you come across an advertisement and you think “wow that’s just the kind of shirt I like… on Facebook?” Advertisers and social media networks can now take your recent online purchases and your behavior not only on Facebook but also elsewhere on the Internet and deliver tailored ads to you see based on what your past activities indicate you might like. So items similar to that swanky-looking coat you purchased or that flannel with the intricate colors will keep showing up more and more. Excellent detective work, huh?

How does this affect your job search? Well, think about it: Less privacy, more visibility, and potential employers can now learn a lot more about you without ever talking to you.

I agreeWhen asked, more than 68% of Americans say that being tracked online is unethical, but seem to ignore those pesky privacy protection agreements (when asked to read “terms of service” documents, most people just simply click “I Agree”). But seriously, who wants to go through hundreds of pages of literally every possible scenario that could possibly happen? Not me!

But there are ways to protect yourself that don’t involve reading voluminous legal documents. Here are Degrees2Dreams’ recommendations for how you can reduce online tracking, and surf the Internet without feeling that someone is watching over your shoulder.

  1. INSTALL 3rd PARTY PROGRAMS TO BLOCK ADS: Installing programs that help block ads not only makes surfing the internet much smoother, it eliminates the potential for accidental clicks leading to sites that are simply just wasting your time. Here is a list of some of the best…
    1. Adblock Plus (blocks ads, banners, pop-ups and video ads)
    2. DoNotTrackMe (blocks potential identity thieves and spammers)
    3. NoScript (aids against XSS and click-jacking, and works specifically with sites you trust).
  2. FIX THOSE COOKIES: Changing your cookie settings on your browser to expire when you are finished browsing a website. This is a great way to prevent online companies from storing your personal information. With the average website generating more than 50 cookies per individual visit, changing your cookie settings can dramatically reduce the online tracking of your Internet life.
  3. TURN OFF REFERRERS: Have you ever noticed that when you click on a box to fill out your information on a web site, your computer instantly knows everything from your address to something as confidential as your credit card number? This is due to referrers using various HTTP requests to distribute personal information to various websites throughout the World Wide Web. The best way to cope with this problem is to install the Referrer Control extension for either Firefox or Google Chrome. This handy-dandy extension eliminates those troublesome referrers and gets you one step closer to freedom from online trackers.
  4. IT’S BETTER TO BE HTTPS THEN SORRY: HTTPS or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is simply the difference between a secured network and an unsecured network (HTTP), and it is essential when accessing your favorite sites that you add the “s” to http://. Downloading HTTPS Everywhere is a great way to reduce the risk of a third parties snooping on your activity in what you thought were private conversations, as well as the personal data you enter, or your activities on your favorite websites.

So follow our suggestions and enjoy healthy and unmonitored Internet browsing in the true privacy of your own computer. And feel a little more secure in the knowledge that potential employers will more likely find what YOU want them to find out about you online.

Happy (and secure) browsing!

Pink Panther Creative Commons photo by kennethkonica 

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