3 little things for big online privacy improvements


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3_steps_DPD13This Monday (Jan. 28) is the 6th annual Data Privacy Day, a day dedicated to controlling your digital footprint and drawing attention to the privacy risks that people across the world encounter. Two privacy reports released this week by Microsoft and Google show that people have more cause than ever before to be concerned about online tracking and data requests made by companies and governments.

Still, many people are unfamiliar with the easy steps they can and should take to protect their privacy on the Internet: 60% of people say they don’t understand how to protect their online privacy, and 39% say they rely on friends and family, as well as company privacy statements, as their top source for privacy information.

If you’ve got 5 minutes today, you can do these 3 simple things to improve your privacy:


Free tracker-blockers give you a choice over whether companies can mine your browsing data.

1. Download a tool to block tracking in your browser

The latest Web Privacy Census by Abine and The Berkeley Center for Law and Technology found that online tracking continues to grow in prevalence and sophistication. Download a free tracker blocking tool, like Abine’s DoNotTrackMe, Disconnect, or PrivacyFix, to protect your privacy and stop companies from collecting your private information whenever you use the web. Our friends at the private search engine DuckDuckGo also have a great list of tools on how to stop getting tracked in your browser.

2. Turn off your phone’s GPS when you aren’t using it

Not only will you stop broadcasting your location everywhere you go, but you’ll save a lot of battery life. Many mobile apps and companies track GPS activity, and free apps are 4 times more likely to do so than paid apps. Yet only 19% of smartphone owners have turned off the location tracking feature on their phone because they were concerned that other individuals or companies could access that information.

Turning off your GPS is pretty quick. For an Android device, go to Settings, then Location Services, and then uncheck all GPS services. There’s also a shortcut: pull down the top menu, then hit the GPS icon to toggle it on (green) and off (white).


Disabling GPS on an Android phone: the non-shortcut way is on the left, and the shortcut way is on the right.

For an iOS device, go to Settings, then General, then Location Services. Toggle the Location Services button to turn it on or off.


 3. Make all your old Facebook posts private

With Facebook’s new Graph Search, anything you’ve posted in the past is one search away. Luckily you can limit the privacy settings of all your old posts to “friends only” in one place. Just go to Privacy Settings, then under “Who can see my stuff,” click “Limit past posts.” Click the “Limit Old Posts” button to finish.


61_percent_statData Privacy Day is all about spreading the word and educating the people you know about the importance of going private: most of them have no idea what’s happening to their personal information. For those who want to take action, make their voices heard, or encourage others to do the same, share an online privacy pledge and your knowledge through social media: “Today is Data Privacy Day & I’m protecting my online privacy by [fill in something you did here]. #DataPrivacyDay #DPD13″

You can be an advocate in the online privacy movement. In 2013, millions of consumers will have the knowledge, tools, and power to make a stand and shift the online privacy debate. Voice your concerns about the state of online privacy or share a privacy pledge with companies, policymakers and other citizens using the hashtags #DataPrivacyDay and #DPD13.

We hope these tips were helpful. Happy Data Privacy Day, and good luck going private!

6 Replies to “3 little things for big online privacy improvements”

  1. Miss Elaneous says:

    Some of us are still devotees of Internet Explorer. Can’t you PLEASE come up with comparable products like MaskMe for IE ? Thanks.

    • Sarah Downey says:

      It’s in the works. MaskMe is still very much in beta, which is why it’s currently only in Chrome. Firefox is up next, followed by IE and Safari. Don’t worry; it’ll be here!

  2. I really hope that with your company I can be safe now. In Janurary my compurters was down and for 3 days I had no use. When they came back up I had lost a lot of informatiom missing and I cant seen to retrieve it. As I have At&t as my Internet server and a lot of people lost service during this time.
    I have a desk to computer should I also down load this program on it. Or will it be covered?
    I wand to thank You.

    • Sarah Downey says:

      Sorry to hear about your computer troubles. DNTMe is a browser add-on, not a standard computer program, so you’ll need to download and install it in each browser you use (Safari, Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox) if you want to use it. Let us know of you need any help getting started!

  3. Emily says:

    Hello there,

    Your blog is an interesting read. I was wondering if you would be able to take 5 minutes to complete my questionnaire for my dissertation. The questionnaire is about social networking sites and the privacy issues concerned.

    I would really appreciate it.


    Thank you

  4. Srikanth says:

    This is so helpful in improving myself. Thanks for your help.

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