Avoid prying eyes, data collection, and let your business stay your business
We all suffer from a lack of privacy. And we’re not talking about your room mate raiding your makeup stash or the peeping tom looking in from the high-rise across the square. It’s the constant, even oppressive amount of invasive data collection that is being conducted during our online sessions by some of the world’s wealthiest companies. Companies that actually became rich by almost exclusively doing just that–collecting data on who you are, what you like, what you do, what you want–and then selling it to eager advertisers and marketers.
There are many ways to protect your identity and data by limiting the information you make accessible to the Silicon Valley behemoths or other tracking agents. The use of VPNs has grown to mask a computer or mobile device’s IP addresses. Publicly broadcasting your IP address pinpoints your device connections, your location and internet service provider, and helps advertisers track what you’ve been doing on the internet. You should also look at alternative browsers such as Firefox and Opera which are built with robust privacy and anonymity features at their core.
Search engines are another tempting place for big data companies to track your activities and interests, that can be shared later with marketers and who knows who else. More often than not, Google or Microsoft will require you to log in to your account, which is linked to your email address and your real phone number (so creepy, why do they need this!).
Fortunately, there are other options. For an all-around private, no log-in search there are several options but three popular engines stand out: long-time favourites DuckDuckGo (US based) and Startpage (Holland) and the newer Qwant (France).
Find videos online with search engines that respect privacy
For videos, there are specialized sites that focus only on video searches and don’t use or log your data or share your search habits with others, as Google, Youtube or Bing would.
A great example is PeteyVid, a multi-lingual search engine that delivers a wide range of results. It’s a clean video search engine that is focused on privacy, and explicitly does not collect or save your data or searches. They show results from over 60 different video providers from around the world, unlike a Google video search which is skewed heavily towards YouTube.
PeteyVid and others like it are also great for searching for news videos, as it gives you a more diverse set of results than YouTube searches ever would. YouTube videos are of course included in the results but are balanced by many other sources such as Vimeo, AOL, DailyMotion, Facebook, etc. We did some recent searching for COVID-19 news and received a wide range of results.
The ideal strategy to maintain your online privacy
To protect yourself from the great invasion (of privacy) by major web companies, marketers, and even government agencies, you should do three things:
- Use a VPN – whether on your phone or computer this will mask the hidden data that broadcasts your actual IP address, internet provider and location
- Use a browser that provides a high level of security and privacy, and doesn’t require you to be logged in to an account. If you need to have access to various Google, Apple or Google browser services you can use one browser for those purposes, and then have a second browser open to use for searches, news and web surfing
- Use alternative, privacy focused search engines such as DuckDuckGo for regular searches or PeteyVid for videos.
Your internet experience should be productive, but safe and without any concern for your data. While big internet companies insist they need more and more of your personal information to provide a better experience for you, many scandals, investigations and whistleblowers suggest profit and control are the driving force behind the increasing drive for data. While there are lots of good people and good intentions at the big companies, the safest bet is to find alternatives to the mainstream offerings and use them when appropriate. Happy and safe surfing!