Data security has been a major concern since internet use surged in the past year and a half. As people from all over the world are stuck at home due to lockdowns, going online is the only way to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues.
New Zealand is no exception to this increased online activity. During the first lockdown in 2020, internet traffic reached 3.0Tbps per day. This increased further during the recent lockdown, as traffic peaked at 3.6Tbps on 18 August. This is a 27% increase in a single day!
This increased online traffic only lures more fraudsters to get ahold of people's personal data. Aside from being aware of the latest fraud schemes, you should also learn to adjust your browser settings. Learning about these data privacy settings doesn't just keep you from getting robbed, you'll also get rid of those pesky targeted ads!
Chrome, owned by Google, takes up the largest market share in the browser market worldwide. As of August 2021, it has a 64.94 % market share. While it’s the most popular, it’s also often regarded as one of the least secure when used in default settings. The great thing is, it’s also very flexible, giving you plenty of options for tighter security.
It’s no surprise that a lot of hackers are lurking around the browser for users who don’t change their settings. To protect your personal data, simply change these settings to heighten your Chrome browser security.
Keeping your browsing data can be helpful for a lot of reasons. You don’t have to reload pages that you’ve previously accessed, or re-enter your login information for your email and social media accounts. However, this can also mean that tracking and accessing all your personal information is a piece of cake.
Every once in a while, clean your browsing history. You can set to clear your data within a specific period such as the last hour, last 24 hours, last 7 days, last 4 weeks, and all time. You can clear the following information:
Here's how to clear your browsing data:
To keep your browsing information as private as possible, limit what Google can know about your usage. While these are often harmless information to you, they can be useful information for Chrome. Usually, these are diagnostic data that Google uses to spot bugs and solve any issues you might have.
Luckily, Google has a secured network that transmits data privately. Even if you allow them by default, there’s almost no harm on your end. However, this may mean more targeted ads on almost all web pages, which can be really annoying.
Here’s how to avoid targeted ads on Google Chrome:
Like most browsers in the market, Chrome allows websites to store cookies in your computer. These are small files that log your activities and preferences, including your location on a weather website, photos and videos that you’ve viewed, and more. These cookies can also be used by third-party trackers and advertisers to show location-specific ads and track your activity.
As mentioned, cookies are really useful when you want to go back to a web page, as you don’t have to reload them all over again. However, if you’d rather trade off this convenience for not having targeted ads, here’s how to turn them off:
For more comprehensive cookie management, you can choose to ‘Clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome.’ Simply switch toggle this on and keep Chrome free from targeted ads whenever you use the browser.
If you use any Apple device, you’re surely familiar with Safari. After Chrome, it ranks as the second most popular browser, taking up an 18.77% market share. Safari’s developer Apple is known for its security and privacy. It has different privacy settings turned on by default like its proprietary Intelligent Tracking Prevention.
While Safari takes security and privacy seriously, there are still plenty of settings to tweak. Make sure that lurkers don’t tap into your personal information by changing these settings.
While all the settings are tweaked by Safari, it still uses Google as its default search engine. Whenever you search for information online, Google records your activities and may use them to improve your user experience and give you targeted ads. To avoid specific ads and recording of your personal information altogether, switch your search engine completely.
Currently, Google is the most popular search engine website, garnering 92.03% market share. However, alternatives such as Bing, Yahoo! and DuckDuckGo (DDG) can be just as convenient and better for those who are really sensitive with data tracking. For example, DDG is trusted by tech experts as it doesn’t collect specific user information like geo-location and login credentials.
To pick a different search engine, follow these steps:
As mentioned, tracking can be used for plenty of reasons like convenience and better user experience, but it can also be used for annoying ads. Once your information is tracked, it can be accessed not only by the specific website that you accessed, but also by other websites that can pay for it. Stopping altogether can give you more control over your data.
Thanks to the newest iterations of macOS, you can now see the ad trackers that are running on each website. They can also give you a 30-day report of the trackers that they identify when you’re browsing, and which websites these came from.
To stop all these trackers on your Safari browser, follow these steps:
Note: Ultimately, this should ban all websites from tracking you, but it’s the website’s choice to comply.
As Apple keeps track of your website activities, they give you the extra convenience of launching Safari with your most frequently visited websites. While this can mean an easier user experience, it’s not really necessary. Here's how to disable them:
Microsoft’s own browser, Edge, is the successor to the original Internet Explorer. Currently, it has the third most popular browser in the world, garnering 3.56% as of August 2021. While they’re less popular now, they still have some of the best privacy and tracker prevention options among their competitors.
The great thing about Edge is, it’s light to use. It consumes less RAM, resulting in smoother and snappier browsing. Compared to Chrome, it consumes about 14% less RAM. You don’t have to deal with lags and long wait times just to load the content on the screen.
While all these are plenty useful for user experience, there are still a lot of settings that you can tweak to further improve your user experience.
Controlling your tracking activities can be difficult to understand, but Edge makes it easier. They offer three straightforward tracking prevention options: basic, balanced, and strict. To help you choose better, here’s a guide to what each restriction offers.
To change your tracking prevention settings, follow these steps:
Note: ‘Balanced’ option is recommended but you may choose ‘Strict’ for optimum security.
Like any other web browser, Edge automatically sends diagnostics to its database to improve your user experience. While this is proven to improve your user experience, some people opt not to send this information for their security and privacy.
Fortunately, you can always turn off these diagnostics sharing just like any other browser. To disable this feature:
While you’re at it, you may also turn off a personalised web experience. Follow these steps:
Most data compromises and privacy concerns happen because of an unsecured internet connection. No matter how secure your browser settings are, a compromise may still happen once they get into your connection. Get a reliable Broadband plan as your first line of defence to make sure all your information are safe and secure.
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