Big Brother is watching you, and it follows every step of your digital life. The bill repealing FCC internet service providers (ISP) privacy rules should act as a wake-up call to all internet users since it has set the stage for ISPs to sell people's browser history.
That leaves very little room for users, but fortunately there are measures that protect privacy and address this concerning practice that transforms you and your internet use into a product.
Keep a Clean Browser History Locally
Every web browser keeps a file of your digital profile: browser history, download history, cookies, local storage and cache. That's a gold mine for anyone who wants to obtain information about you, so keeping your browser clean is the way to go to protect your privacy. Safari will automatically delete browsing history based on your preferences, but it's good to do it often, either manually or using a Mac optimization app.
Uncheck iCloud Sync
When you enable iCloud sync, you actually allow Apple to save browsing history on third party servers, exposing that information – the price users pay for convenience. This bill increases if users also deploy a browser’s password manager feature combined with cloud sync. Take the Opera server breach, for example, which left sync users' passwords and account information such as login names compromised.
Apple uses every possible opportunity to emphasize the security measures it takes to protect user privacy. That refers to iCloud sync, as well: if you delete browsing history locally, that will clear it on every device associated with that Apple ID, the company says, hence the surprise when Russian-based software maker Elcomsoft was able to retrieve ‘deleted’ browser history dating back more than 12 months.
This case shows that if you care about privacy, don't enable Safari sync. The current status can be checked by launching System Preferences, clicking iCloud, and checking whether Safari sync is turned on. If it is, turn it off by unchecking the box located on the left.
How to Keep Safari Clean With Mac Optimization Apps
Cookies, database files and caches all need to be removed in a separate process when cleaning Safari manually. Mac optimization apps, however, streamline the cleaning process. With CleanMyMac 3, click on Privacy > Safari, and check every box displayed here. This, however, won’t remove the cache; instead that's done in the “System Junk” cleaning process. To have an absolutely clean web browser, the ultimate step would be to remove the database files. Of course, the results can always be double-checked by launching Safari in a new window and clicking Preferences > Privacy > Manage Website Data.
Use Private Browsing and a VPN Service
The ultimate protection, however, is using a combination of private browsing mode and a VPN service. The Private Browsing feature of Safari protects user privacy by blocking some websites from tracking search behavior, and it won't store browsing history, search history or AutoFill information after a session.
A VPN service adds another layer of security on top of that by hiding your real IP address and replacing it with a new one. Such a service will also protect user privacy by hiding the browsing history from the ISP, which will then only be able to see a connection to the selected VPN server.
Protecting Passwords Using a Password Manager
For those balking at password manager apps, the likelihood is that iCloud Keychain has still been a good companion for them since it, too, has kept passwords handy. However, if you care about your online privacy and taking measures to protect it – by disabling iCloud sync, for example – then this neat Keychain feature is also one to avoid. As such, this is where password managers can help by providing a wide variety of features centered around security on every major platform, meaning users aren't even locked only to the Apple ecosystem. With such software users won't be giving out their usernames, passwords, and credit card details to a browser that could end up leaking sensitive information without their knowledge. Instead, users can save sensitive information in a secure environment.
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