Last updated: September 2014
Seven simple steps to protect yourself online
1. Clear out all your existing cookies and history
Web browsers store ‘cookies’, pieces of data sent from websites while you browse them. If you look at the website again, a cookie will notify the website of your previous activity. Cookies can be used to gather information about your browsing history. They can also store passwords or the contents of forms you fill in online.
You can use the free software CCleaner to clear out your cookies. Download here >
In addition if you have a Google+ account you may also want to go to your Saved Search History and clear it out and then turn Web History off.
2. Change your web browser
As we outline in our guide to web browsers when ethics are combined with privacy concerns, it’s well worth taking a conscious decision about what browser you use.
According to Ethical Consumer’s web expert Michael Wignall, the Comodo Dragon browser provides “an almost identical experience to Chrome but with added security and some privacy”.
Download Comodo Dragon browser >
Comodo Dragon, however, is only available on Windows computers (i.e. not Macs, Linux or Android devices). If you are running one of these Firefox is an excellent alternative especially coupled with the BetterPrivacy plugin (see below).
TOR (The Onion Router) project – use this for really private browsing.
You'll need to download this first but it's simple to do and easy to operate.
On Tor you can also hide some information about your network location by using a network of proxies and routers but this blocks Flash, Quicktime etc. so the experience can be limited.
3. Add a privacy plugin if using a Mac or Android device
Install and activate a browser plugin to protect your privacy, limiting the amount of information that gets collected.
If using an Android device use Firefox, with BetterPrivacy
If using an Apple device add Ghostery or Disconnect privacy plugin to Safari or use firefox with BetterPrivacy.
If using Internet Explorer from Microsoft (which we don't really recommend), enable tracking protection.
4. Set your browser to refuse 3rd party cookies
For example, in Chrome go to settings > advanced > content settings.
5. Use a separate browser for all your social media
Companies can access what you've been looking at on social media and use it to target marketing etc. By using a different browser you can keep this information separate from your general internet use and so make it more difficult for those trying to track you.
6. Change your search engine
Google logs your IP address and collects, stores and sells information about you and your web activity.
Some alternatives that do not:
7. Change your email provider
Use independent email services that are run by media activist collectives. Unlike corporate providers, they will not give your emails to the authorities without a warrant and a legal fight. If that happens, they will make it public if they can, so you (and thousands of other activists) will know about it.
For a more in depth information see the Tech Tools for Activism guide from Flossmanuals.
This also includes more advanced options such as encrypting email and securely uploading media to the net.