Four ways to protect your data privacy and still be online

Today is Data Privacy Day, which is a good reminder that data privacy is a thing, and you’re in charge of it. The simple truth: your personal data is very valuable, which is why companies are always looking for ways to collect it. Once your data is collected, it’s often impossible to know what it’s being used for, how securely it’s stored, who it’ll be shared with or how long it will be retained. In addition to ad targeting, your personal data could be used for price discrimination, employment discrimination, service denials, election influencing and other insidious practices. But this isn’t a hopeless situation. Here are four easy ways to be the boss of your personal data on all your devices every day of the year.

Block the trail of supercookies

Supercookies are bits of data that can be stored on your computer by whoever is serving them up, like advertising networks. Compared to the more common tracking cookies, supercookies are harder to detect and get rid of because they hide in various places and can’t be automatically deleted. By injecting supercookies into your browser, the supercookie owner can capture a ton of your unique personal data like your identity, behavior, preferences, how long you’re online, when you’re most active and more. Supercookies can communicate across different websites, stitching together your personal data into a highly detailed profile.

They’re defiant, too. Supercookies don’t go away when you clear your cache or delete cookies, making them a next-level tool in data collection.

How we can help right now:

The good news is that Firefox is making it harder for companies to track you with sneaky supercookies. The latest version of Firefox (released on Jan. 26 — download here ) greatly reduces their effectiveness by cutting off their ability to communicate across websites. Now that Firefox is blocking supercookie tracking, future updates will offer other new protections against various kinds of tracking.

Keep your ISP out of your business

Because your internet traffic passes through your internet service provider (ISP), they can see where you go online, how long you visit sites, your location and information about your devices. That’s rich personal data ISPs can use to create detailed profiles about you. Popular belief is wrong — browsing in private mode doesn’t prevent ISPs from collecting your data. However, connecting to the internet through a VPN — virtual private network — makes it much harder for ISPs to collect this information.

How we can help right now:

VPNs are handy security tools to protect your data privacy, but not all VPNs are equal. Some services will log your online activities so they can sell your data and information to marketing firms themselves. Backed by a mission-driven company, Mozilla VPN doesn’t engage in any of those practices. It delivers trusted privacy for all your devices, backed by a mission-driven company that puts people over profits.

Set up a private email identity

Email addresses are also a hot commodity for data collection, and with good reason. Most people have only a few email addresses, yet they have dozens, if not hundreds, of online accounts connected to them. Your email address is a unique identifier — after all, you’re the only one with it. Think about all of the information someone could glean by connecting everything you do to your email identity.

How we can help right now:

Firefox Relay is a smart solution for shielding your personal email. In just a click, you can create an email alias that forwards to your inbox, keeping your actual email address private. Plus, it helps cut down on spam and hacking attempts.

Give Facebook (and Instagram) special treatment

Did you know that Facebook can track almost all your web activity and tie it to your Facebook identity, even if you don’t have an account? That’s pretty outrageous. Shadow profiles, aside, staying connected to friends and family shouldn’t come at the cost of your privacy. According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of all Facebook users are uncomfortable with Facebook compiling their personal data. Yes, it’s creepy, and yes you can do something about it.

How we can help right now:

One solution is to add the Facebook Container extension to help fence your Facebook identity from what you do on the rest of the web, thereby limiting Facebook’s reach. When Facebook Container is active, tracking content such as the “like” button and some embedded media, is blocked on websites, but you can choose on a case by case basis what you let through. At the end of the day, the less data they have on you, the less they can give away to bad actors. It’s kind of a no-brainer.

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