New Year, New Privacy!

It’s 2022, and while early evidence suggests there’s a lot of things not new about this year (cough… Covid…cough) there’s still a chance to make new changes to enhance your online privacy!

Here are 3 top tips to a new more private online you!

1)  Stop your smart TV from spying on you

It’s not like Google has ever been a bastion of user privacy.  In fact in 2010 they admitted they had been secretly siphoning data from people’s wifi they drove past as they created their streetview maps.  But they have produced some incredibly useful tools, albeit ones with a double edged sword.  Ones like streetview – useful for me and you to find the local chinese restaurant, and useful for our stalkers to find us!

There’s a ton of reasons why you might not want pictures of your home and its location available for all to explore.  Whatever they are, follow these steps to blur out your home on Google Street View:

  1. Visit Google Maps
  2. Search for your address
  3. Look at your home in Street View (drag the little yellow manikin in the bottom right of the screen so it’s looking at your home)
  4. Click “Report a problem”
  5. Move the red box over your home and select “My home” in the “Request blurring” box
  6. Type a reason.  For example “I want to protect my privacy”
  7. Type in your email address and click “Submit”

You should receive email communications regarding your request.  And then, after a while it seems, a blurry online abode!

2)  Stop your smart TV from spying on you

Turns out as TVs become smarter, they also become creepier.  As this Techcrunch article details, even the FBI has been warning people about the security risks TV’s pose.

“Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home. A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router,” wrote the FBI.

If you don’t like the sound of that (we certainly don’t!) then following this Mashable article on how to reduce the risk by playing with your TV’s settings.

3)  Watch porn in (real) privacy

Now we aren’t suggesting a new you requires a new dirty online habit… but we also believe in the freedom to conduct your life in true privacy.  And while some people might enjoy voyeurisms, most people who might watch content of a sexual nature would expect they are doing it without others knowing.

Wrong!  As even Google notes in it’s official support files for Chrome browser, ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ modes in browsers are nothing of the sort; they simply limit what is stored in your browser history, or cookies.  As the support file says “Your activity isn’t hidden from websites you visit, your employer or school, or your internet service provider.”  In fact some porn sites are known to sell your activity and preferences to third parties!

Want a way round that?  Use “TOR-mode” networking, and specifically the free TOR browser.  We won’t go into details of how it works here, but suffice to say it stops websites profiling you.

And if you’re so inclined you could even look at other things in complete anonymity too!  What’s sexier than that?