Summer is just around the corner. While posting our last spring pics and cleaning up our Instagram feed for summer, don't forget to also do your digital cleaning. Just as cleaning out all of your clutter in your physical space is vital, going through your internet profile and clearing out unwanted lurking settings on your browser or social media is just as important.
Here are our four top tips for cleaning up your digital presence and starting spring free of lurkers online.
1. Why you should delete cookies on your browser
We love cookies, whether they be peanut butter, red velvet, raisin, sugar, or chocolate chip, just to name a few. However, the only cookies we here at Mysterium VPN are firmly against digital cookies that track our digital activity across websites, collect personal information, slow our connectivity, and therefore pose a security threat.
Now, of course, not all website cookies are harmful. In general, they can be sorted into three: session cookies that only store information for the time you’re on the page and delete it immediately after, stored cookies that save any online profiles or preferences to autofill the next time you’re on the page, and third-party cookies that track your browsing activity and preferences to then sell to another party for targeting purposes.
On occasion, it’s always best to clear the cookie cache of your mobile or desktop device. To do so, all you need to do is go through your browser's privacy and security settings and look through which cookies you might want to clear out before summer hits.
2. Google Ad Tracking…It’s all fun and games until it’s not
We’re not going to lie to you. Searching through our own ad profile in preparation was fun…maybe a little bit too fun. (What does having “spreadsheet software” as an ad interest say about a person? Asking for a friend.) Until it got a little too accurate….
In June 2016, Google removed a clause in its privacy statement. It previously promised not to combine a user’s cookie information with its Google ID information (collected through YouTube, Gmail, etc.) unless it had explicit opt-in consent. This way, it improved its ad personalization and was able to better target ads to its users, not just on its own websites but also, and more importantly, on all third-party websites and apps that use Google services. Luckily you can explicitly opt-out of this.
First, you can find your ad profile by visiting https://adssettings.google.com/ and turning your ad personalization settings off. Second, you can also go to activity controls of your Google profile and deselect “Include Chrome browsing history and activity from websites and apps that use Google services.”
3. Social Media 💀
How does Instagram know that we're looking to buy a couch before searching for it? How does Twitter know to show a car just as our old one broke down? Are social media platforms listening to us? We know the question is almost cliche at this point (and we all know the answer 👀), so let’s get into how we can prevent social media platforms from tracking (and listening to us) even when we’re not using them.
Meta (Facebook and Instagram) track, process, and resell your data similarly to Google. Although they have saıd publicly that “Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads, " many rumors and user experiences have led people to believe otherwise.
One way to limit the level of information Meta can collect on you, and your online personal information is to change your Facebook settings to stop off-Facebook activity tracking. (You can do so from here.) In addition, you can also go to the device settings of your phone, tablet, or laptop and untoggle Facebook’s access to your microphone.
4. Your ISP Provider, a.k.a. Wolf in sheep's clothing
Whether it be verizon or vodafone, your internet service provider (ISP) tracks all your online activity and preferences so long as you use its internet service with no security barrier. What can they track? Oh, just about everything. Files you’ve downloaded, social media data, passwords, websites you’ve visited, etc.
The next question to ask is why ISPs would do so? There are a variety of reasons. ISPs claim they want to improve their user experience; some countries require ISPs to collect data over a certain period. But most probable is the profit that ISPs want to sell information to third-party marketing agencies.
The best way to protect yourself from the spying eyes of your ISP is through a VPN.
A VPN helps blind your ISP applications and services used to track you online.
Mysterium VPN helps you do this by rerouting your internet activity, not through servers, but through nodes offered up by our community members around the world.