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13 Things You Should Know About Online Privacy

Surfing the web can be a fun and productive experience, but you could be putting your personal information at risk. Here are 13 things you can do to keep your private data safe.

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Update Your Browsers

A web browser is your gateway to the Internet, so keep it current. Updates plug holes that attackers could use to capture your web history, passwords and more. Browsers such as Google Chrome can update automatically as you work.

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Keep Track of all Your Passwords With One App

Ditch your pen and paper and get a password manager. Apps such as 1Password or LastPass will store your passwords securely and generate strong, unique passwords-much harder to hack than the name of your cat.

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Make Sure You’re on a Secure Connection

On services such as Gmail and Facebook, turn on secure browsing in your account settings to prevent digital eavesdropping. If you see the prefix “https” in your address bar, it’s working.

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Two Passwords Are Better Than One

For an extra layer of security, enable two-step verification. It’s a setting for Gmail, Facebook and some other services that asks for two passwords when you log in: your usual password and a randomly generated password that’s sent to your phone.

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Use an Alternate Email Address for Site Registrations

Some sites and apps allow you to register using your Facebook or Twitter account, but you share a lot of information about yourself that way. Use an alternate email address, and give a fake name to keep your identities separate.

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The Terms of Service Are Important

Read privacy policies. Websites such as “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read” explain popular sites’ legalese in plain language.

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Clear Your Browser History

Why do ads on other websites seem to know what you’ve been searching for on Amazon or Google? The ad itself places web-tracking files called cookies on your computer that remember what sites you visit. Ads on other websites can read those cookies, too. Clear browsing data at the end of a session or use a tool such as CCleaner to remove old cookies.

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Your Online Profile Can Be Used For Ads

Google and Facebook will use your name and profile photos to target ads at your friends unless you opt out in your privacy settings.

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Control How Devices and Apps Collect Your Data

Some apps and sites ask for access to your webcam or location only the first time you use them. For more control over how or when your data is collected, most devices have settings that let you revoke access when you’re done.

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People Can Find You Using Your Updates

Status updates and photos posted online can include your location. Be aware: even if this data is hidden, it can be extracted and used to plot the near-exact location of friends, children and relatives.

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Be Careful Using Free Wifi

Be smart about using unprotected wireless networks. It’s not hard for a determined coffee-shop neighbour to eavesdrop on unencrypted data you’re sending.

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Protect Your Texts Messages

Apps like RedPhone can be installed on Android phones to encrypt calls and text messages; and Off-the-record, a plug-in for desktop apps Pidgin and Adium, can encrypt your instant messages, too.

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Mask Your Online Activity

Consider a virtual private network, or VPN. Apps such as TunnelBear encrypt your activity in a protective shell, useful for tasks like banking away from home.