Whenever you browse the web or use your smartphone, you may be unknowingly giving data away – data that can identify where you are and what you’re doing. Think it sounds like a conspiracy theory? Think again.
In January of this year, T-Mobile and Sprint made a promise that they’d stop selling location data (i.e. your location data) to third parties. They've made this promise before, and they’ve failed to keep it every time.
A study from 2018 found that 55% of 160,000 free Android apps had trackers that tried to extract the user’s location. Thirty percent of those apps accessed the device’s contact list.
Data is extremely valuable to marketers and corporations. The more information they have about your browsing, buying and traveling habits, the better they can target you with relevant advertisements.
How can you prevent third parties from selling your data?
Start Using a VPN
A VPN, or virtual private network, makes your Internet connection more secure and allows you to stay anonymous. With a VPN, you receive a temporary IP address that hides your real IP address from every website or email you connect with.
There are both free and paid VPN services.
Because your IP address is hidden, you have greater protection against hackers as well as snoopers who are trying to tie your location to your web activities.
Change Your Phone’s Privacy Settings
Adjusting your phone’s privacy settings can prevent third parties from gathering some data from you.
If you have an iPhone, navigate to Settings app > Privacy > Advertising. From here, enable Limit Ad Tracking. You can also reset your advertising identifier, which will clear the data associated with your advertising number. If you want to opt out of location-based ads, you can do so through Settings > Privacy > Location Services and scrolling down to System Services to disable Location-Based Apple Ads.
Android users can change their settings by going to Settings > Google > Ads. From here, you can enable Opt Out of Ads Personalization. You also have the option of resetting your advertising ID there. Google users may also adjust their ad settings through the Ad Settings page.
Be Picky About the Apps You Install
If you’re an Android user, you may want to consider downloading apps from the F-Droid App Store because it offers apps that don’t have tracking. They have a strict auditing process.
Use Browser Extensions
Firefox and some other browsers have extensions that help limit or prevent data from being collected. Firefox Focus, for example, is a mobile browser meant for blocking ads and ad trackers.
If you have Chrome or Firefox on your desktop, you can use the Privacy Badger extension to block ads and ad trackers.
Filed under: Life