5 Easy (and Free) Ways to Help Protect Your Privacy Online
I make every effort to maintain my privacy and extend that as far as I can to you. But an encrypted email sent to an unencrypted inbox (say, my email to your AOL or Gmail account) is only half secure as it could be. Meaning, if a hacker (or any interested party) got ahold of my password, they still wouldn’t be able to retrieve anything.
But someone with your password might.
Here’s are 5 easy things you can do right now (even if we never meet!):
Taking even small steps toward better choices can help, when it comes to protecting yourself and your privacy online. Remember that it’s never too late to start making better choices, even if you think your secrets are already out there.
You have a right to privacy. In the US it is guaranteed by the Constitution. Knowing your rights is part of making smart decisions about how you share and how you communicate.
Time needed: 10 minutes.
How to take easy steps to protect your privacy online
- Make a private email account.
If you have any communications you want to stay private, I highly recommend that you create a personal ProtonMail account and use only that when you want to interact without worrying about who else might see it.
It’s free and fast and works just like any other email service. If you interact regularly with adult professionals, it will likely earn you some points up front too, just for being in the know. There are so many stories about people who are careless about using work addresses or about unsecure emails being hacked (or being intentionally exposed by their own IT staff) and ending up on the front of the NY Post. And that’s a terrible newspaper for anyone to find themselves in.
Messages between Proton accounts (for instance, yours to mine) are entirely encrypted and not subject to any third party interception. Without top secret, Get Smart-style government technology, that’s as safe as email gets. With privacy online, everyone wins.
- Stop traditional texting, wherever possible.
It’s unreasonable to assume in today’s world that everyone will stop using SMS as a primary means of communication. I get that. But apps like Telegram and Signal make encrypted messaging accessible for anyone with a phone or computer.
Learning how to use them now—before you need them— is a great way to be ready when someone asks for them.
WhatsApp is an absolute last resort in this field. Although they do employ end-to-end encryption by default, nobody should trust their parent company Facebook to protect anyone. ever.
I don’t use WhatsApp myself, but it is reputable as encrypted messengers go.
- Stop texting about sensitive subjects, at the very least.
There is a wise old saying: “Dance like no one is watching. Email (or text) like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.”
Because of our personal comfort with our devices, and being able to secure those devices with a face or fingerprint scan, or a password, we often presume no one has access to our communications but us. You should know, though, texts are stored by Apple (if you use iMessage), and by your service provider, for as long (potentially indefinitely) as they see fit. There is no “deleting” with texts/SMS. Even if you destroy the phone itself.
We’re too far into the game to pretend that “not knowing” is an excuse. Now you know. Make better choices and encourage those around you to do the same.
- Create separate social accounts.
Some of what we broadly assume to be common sense about social media platforms is still elusive to those who don’t use them all the time. And every platform is rife with opinions and misinformation about your rights and how your information is gathered, used, and stored.
If you use apps like Instagram or Twitter, who you follow and what you like there are publicly visible to anyone with an interest. There is very little privacy online sometimes, and rands are forever being undone these days by “liking” content from or following offensive or hate-oriented groups or personalities. Even private or locked accounts can often be accessed by viewing them on the Internet Archive or through 3rd party platforms like Picuki or Webstagram.
Make yourself un-branded (not your real name, perhaps not a photo of your face) accounts on these platforms with which you can engage with adult content or performers. It’s free and apps allow you to switch from one account to another with ease. It’s not foolproof, but it’s better than calling attention to yourself unintentionally.
- No matter WHAT account you use, don’t use DM or PM systems to share information.
Social media sites make it quick and easy to use their integrated private messaging channels (DMs or Direct Messages on Twitter and IG, PM or Personal Messages on Facebook) but these messages are not truly private in any way.
Communicating about or sharing personal information in these message boxes is regularly grounds for account suspension or termination and is available to be reviewed by Facebook or Twitter admins for the life of the account; there is no deleting, even if you remove offending messages from your own inbox. Think of it like your permanent record and treat it with the utmost discretion.
Again: There is no deleting. Those companies can hold your account details—including messages— forever.
Please keep yourself safe
Even if we never have the chance to meet, I believe in your rights to control your personal information, and your rights to privacy and dignity. Sometimes, just knowing what your rights are can go a long way toward protecting them. In other situations, understanding the technology you use, and how it may one day be used against you, is crucial toward keeping yourself from mistakes, trouble, or worse.