The old saying goes that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. But with advertisers, employers, and social media giants keeping track of our every move online, everyone should be concerned about their privacy and the information you're putting into the world.
People are now spending upwards of eight or nine hours daily looking at screens, and with 5.6 billion Google searches being made per day, we're each handing enormously personal data and insights to large, extremely rich companies.
For example, did you know that if you have 'Location History' turned on in Google, the search giant is able to track your every physical move down to the nearest meter?
Or, that social media platforms like Facebook maintain a profile of you that collects all of your interests, tastes, and personality type into one place, so that advertisers can push more targeted ads towards you?
Silicon Valley claims all of this information is used simply to improve its services, and is held in a secure fashion.
While this may be true, cybercrime and hacking incidents increased by 31 percent last year, and a criminal gaining access to such intimate information about you could be extremely dangerous.
Here's our guide to how you can cover your digital tracks, delete your browsing history, and ensure that the personal data collected from you is minimised in future.
How to delete your browser history
Deleting your browser history is the simplest first step you can take to regaining some privacy online, but it's not always entirely effective.
You should know that, because of the way the Internet works, even if you delete your browser history, there is still a record out there of every site you've visited. It will only remove it from your computer.
The sites you visit still keep a record, and if you're on a work computer, your employer will still be able to see what you've visited. This is true even if you're using Google's incognito mode.
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Google Chrome is the most popular browser app out there, with 65 percent of people using it as their main way of accessing the Internet.
You can delete your Google Chrome history like so:
- Click the three dots in the top right of your browser window
- Hover over 'History' and then click it again when it appears onscreen
- A list of all the sites you've visited will come up. You can delete records one-by-one by clicking the three dots next to each entry.
- If you want to delete your entire history from a period of time, click the three horizontal lines on the left side of the screen, then hit 'Clear browsing data'.
- A pop-up will give you the option to delete your browsing history locally, as well as any 'cookies' you have saved (these are records held by the websites you've visited).
- Select the period of time you want deleted, from one hour to all time, and hit 'Clear data'.
Ensuring extra privacy protection from your Google account
Now that you've deleted some of your activity in the past, you might want to tune up your privacy settings to prevent information being gathered from you in future.
If you visit your Google account settings via this link, it will take you to a page that lets you customise every privacy setting imaginable on Google.
For example, you can prevent Google from personalising ads for you, which greatly reduces the amount of data they'll be able to use from you. You can also see all of your activity on Google services and clear it, prevent your location being tracked, and even delete data from entire services such as Youtube.
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Best private browsers
Ultimately, if you want to reduce your data footprint online, you're going to have to get off of Google and Internet Explorer.
Browsers such as Brave use a similar interface as Google Chrome, but block nearly all ads and trackers. They even feature a private mode using Tor, which behaves similar to a VPN and will make your browsing completely anonymous. Or, you can invest in a monthly subscription to a VPN service, which will guarantee anonymity across your devices.
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