Optimize Shopping Privacy, Online and Off


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small__5264113145Blur is a great all-in-one solution for keeping your personal information private – particularly for shopping online. But to maximize privacy, you shouldn’t rely only on Blur. There’s much more you can do.

Here are three steps you can take to make your shopping experiences more private. Obviously, you’ll want to install the Blur browser extension, too! And don’t miss our overview of secure shopping on Amazon for some Blur-specific tips.

Go Incognito

The idea of “private browsing” isn’t new: Apple debuted it in the Safari browser way back in 2005. Today, every popular browser offers a private or incognito mode.

Private browsing isn’t foolproof. While it will keep downloaded files from being saved to your hard drive, anyone skilled in digital forensics will be able to dig up data from your “private” browsing session.

Still, for keeping your shopping history a secret from other people who may use your device, private browsing works just fine. Explore your browser’s settings menu to find and activate private mode – in Internet Explorer, for example, you can find it under Settings (gear icon) > Safety > InPrivate Browsing.

There are also keyboard shortcuts for activating private browsing. On Windows PCs, the shortcut is Ctrl+Shift+N or Ctrl+Shift+P. On Mac computers, use the Command key instead of the Ctrl button.

Say No to Social Logins

We ran an analysis of the most popular e-commerce sites and found that nearly one-third offered “social sign-on” as an option. Here’s what you see when you click the “Log in with Facebook” button on Kmart.com:

aa51The app requesting access to my Facebook profile, Sears Holdings OpenID Login, is pretty clear about what information it will be able to see. The real question is, do I (or you) want this information making into some company’s database? Why, in any case, does Sears Holdings (Kmart’s parent company) need to see a shopper’s Facebook friend list?

It’s true that some apps request less social information than others. But as a general rule, using social logins exposes at least some parts of your (very personal) social-media profiles. We recommend that you avoid social sign-on and create unique username-and-password combos instead.

Tweak Location Services on Your Mobile Device

Have you heard the term “beacon”? Beacons are hockey puck-size computers that use Bluetooth to transmit data to devices in their immediate vicinity. Beacons are cheap and easy to install, so we’re likely to see them more and more often in stores, stadiums, restaurants and elsewhere.

Beacons can be useful. Imagine that you’re in an art museum: A beacon could “sense” that you’re near a particular piece of art and send information about the piece to your phone.

But beacons also have sizable implications for privacy. An organization that installed beacons could theoretically piece together your location history – so if your phone communicates with beacons, you may be revealing a lot about what you’re up to.

The good news: individual apps interact with beacons. So if you’re really concerned with staying private, you can simply avoid these apps. (Google the name of the app and “beacon” to find out more about a particular app.) Alternatively, you can go to your phone’s settings (on an iPhone, visit Settings > Privacy > Location Services) and turn off location tracking on an app-by-app basis. Or, simply keep Bluetooth off when you are out and about.

For more digital privacy tips, check out this excellent overview from a nonprofit journalists group. Good luck out there!

Photo courtesy of MoneyBlogNewz via photopin cc.

One Reply to “Optimize Shopping Privacy, Online and Off”

  1. Shanjei says:

    Really helpful post. I never thought about the social media thing you pointed out. I’ve did that many times while shopping.. well, now I know its a mistake. Thanks

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