Don’t Expose Yourself: A Guide to Online Privacy – Geoffrey A. Fowler May 31, 2017 12:56 p.m. ET

Here’s how even non-techie people can start fighting back against Facebook, Google and other internet snoops

Illustration: Richard Borge for The Wall Street Journal

You wouldn’t walk naked through Times Square. Stop being naked online.

Your laptop and that smartphone grafted to your hand are double agents. What you look at, where you go and even what you say can be used to paint a portrait of youleaving you as exposed as the day you were born. Much of Silicon Valley wants you to think the price of using the internet is letting them data-mine your life.

This is a beginner’s guide to fighting back.

It starts with a golden rule: When the product is free, that means you are the product. Your privacy is the cost of a free social network, free tax prep or free photo storage.

  • Your Data Is Way More Exposed Than You Realize

    Think online privacy is no big deal? You better sit down: Geoffrey A. Fowler shows how much of your personal information is out there, and how it can be used to target or harass.Why It Matters: Take a lesson from Kim Kardashian, who was robbed in Paris last year after posting her whereabouts on social media: The less you put out there, the fewer chances it might be used against you. Don’t simply accept the defaults for sharing your information with people—or advertisers.

Quick Fix: Besides posting less needlessly revealing information, you should locate Facebook and Google’s “privacy checkup” tools. Facebook’s lets you adjust post visibility, app activity (some of which you might want to delete) and basic personal details. Google’s My Account checkup lets you manage what you share on YouTube and the Photos app, and whether Google saves your web activity, voice commands and locations.

Quick Fix: Most smartphones don’t have simple privacy checkups. (Get on it, Apple and Android!) So do it yourself by deleting apps you no longer use, then looking through your phone’s privacy settings. Some apps have unnecessary access to sensitive information such as contacts and location. Uber, for one, overreaches by asking to track your whereabouts at all times.

Deeper Dive: Opt out of as much “customized” advertising as possible. This won’t necessarily stop tracking, but it will stop you from seeing some ads eerily targeted to websites and apps you have used. Google lets you turn off “ads personalization.” Facebook by default tracks you away from its website, but you can turn that off. There also are advertising opt-outs for Apple Inc.’s devices and Inc.You can turn on a limited “don’t track” capability in Firefox and Microsoft Edge sites.

Walmart tracking GIF

Walmart tracking GIF Photo: Geoffrey A. Fowler/The Wall Street Journal

2) Block Your Browser

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