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Tuesday 21 November 2017
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5 easy and simple ways to protect your privacy online – how to prepare for the next big threat

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Follow these simple and easy steps

If there’s one thing everyone wants to protect it’s their privacy and information online.

But while we think we know what we are doing, using filters, incognito browsers and deleting our history, you might not be protecting yourself as much as you think.

Leading privacy advocate and founder of MeWe.com Mark Weinstein knows more than most.

While millions of people are taking to ad blockers, that doesn’t solve the underlying and relentless tracking that we are all subject to.

Taking these simple actions can strongly enhance your privacy.

1. Surf the Internet with safe browsers

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Check what browser you’re using

All browsers are not created equal.

For starters, look into your browser’s privacy settings and increase them where possible.

Also, be aware that certain browsers such as Google Chrome for example, tie back into the entire Google ecosystem to build a deeper footprint.

Personally, I recommend browsers such as the Tor browser, that wipe your tracks clean when you’re online.

The less history you have, the more freedom of choice and privacy you receive.

2. Be careful where you search

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Be careful what you look up

At Google, the searches you conduct are used to build a data history/packet of information about you, which is then used for many things, including the likelihood that it is shared or may be shared in the future with other companies, governments, etc.

Of course it feeds their data and targeted marketing efforts.

Alternatively, DuckDuckGo doesn’t keep your search history or create a data packet about you.

While newer European regulations are intended to protect us better from this data whale, in fact Google is fighting and attempting to subvert these regulations.

3. WhatsApp is not as private as you think

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Don’t just trust WhatsApp

For hundreds of millions of people, WhatsApp is their go-to app for truly private, encrypted chat conversations.

Ah, if only WhatsApp was as private as they’ve promised.

First the good news – WhatsApp now has world-leading encryption, the very best currently available, and is quite unlikely to be hacked.

Now the reality check – get off WhatsApp!

Facebook owns them and the problem is that the language within Facebook’s privacy policy clearly states that it can receive (and thus mine) information from partners to whom it jointly offers services, such as WhatsApp.

What does this mean to you? It means that Facebook is tracking and storing data on who you are talking to, along with when you are talking to them, and where you are when you are posting.

They also use this data to target ads to you when you are on other sites.

Facebook’s new experiment with encrypted chat at Facebook Messenger suffers the same fate.

Where can you turn? I founded MeWe, and there’s also CyberDust. Both are much better at protecting your privacy, not tracking you, and both offer encrypted chat without algorithmic tracking/targeting/data packeting.

4. Use encrypted cloud storage

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Cloud storage might not be the best option

There are countless cloud storage providers out there, however what you want are ones that can’t see your information.

SpiderOak for example, encrypts your files on your device and then uploads them to its datacenter.

That means you’re sending an encrypted copy of your files that SpiderOak can’t decrypt in the first place.

Edward Snowden recommends SpiderOak by the way…

5. Social Networking is changing

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Facebook is collecting information

Facebook has never hidden the fact that they believe in a vastly open world and open information sharing across and within borders.

Sadly that powerful vision always included continuous privacy infractions and content manipulation along with incessant targeted advertisement strategies.

Social media is undergoing a significant transformation with Pew Research now identifying millennials as the demographic most concerned about their online privacy.

New social network companies are at banging at the foot of Facebook’s mountain, offering better communication tech along with respect and privacy too.

What’s the next big threat to privacy?

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Apple CEO Tim Cook has spoken about the risk to privacy

Governments around the world are demanding backdoor access into apps and devices and this is a big threat to privacy globally and locally.

A lot is at risk here.

Backdoors are not just about surveillance; they also enable hackers to steal your data directly and steal data from companies, banks, etc.

The argument for giving governments such power in order to protect us against terrorism also naively assumes that the government or leaders will only use these doors for individual instances of national safety.

And there’s a big difference between giving a backdoor to Germany versus North Korea, and unfortunately governments are not always the good guys.

Weighing the pros and cons, I understand Tim Cook and Apple’s continuing insistence that while a back door may sound good in theory, in reality it doesn’t.

Hackers around the world will be attempting to crack the code on the back door.

This is an evolving conversation and let’s keep in mind that technology is constantly changing and there may come better ways to track and identify people who are dangerous without compromising the privacy protections of encryption.

Where is privacy heading?

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Your reactions might be giving away more than you think

In the past 10 years, we’ve given up a large part of our online privacy to take advantage of fun, popular, and useful digital media technology, but today people have awakened to the laundry this ecstasy has created.

People on Facebook engaged with their friends 21 per cent less in just one year. Pew Research reports that millennials are now the demographic most concerned about their online privacy.

European countries and citizens are suing Facebook and Google for their privacy infractions.

Law student Max Schrems in Austria is world renown for his class action lawsuit against Facebook.

Recently the government of Belgium warned its citizens that by using Facebook’s new ‘Reactions’ all the people were doing was to give Facebook more data.

The head of the French police has even advised parents that they can be sued by their children in the future for posting pictures of them on Facebook.

There is a clear fork in the road, and the momentum has turned in the direction of privacy and respect in partnership with great communication technology and non-tracking revenue models.

The next decade for privacy is likely to be fascinating with dramatic battlegrounds and entrepreneurs inventing solutions challenging the very notion that privacy was ever nearly extinct.



Mark Weinstein, is one of the USA's leading social media and privacy experts and CEO of MeWe.com. Mark is one of the founders of social networking, a leading privacy advocate, and author of the award-winning Habitually Great book series. Mark is revolutionizing online communication at MeWe, with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web, as a key MeWe Advisor. Mark writes a technology column for Huffington Post, and has been featured on CNN, Fox News, and has been honored as "Privacy By Design Ambassador" by the Canadian Government.


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