Businesses thrive on knowing their customers, for if they can understand their customers’ habits and interests, they’ll target them with ads, products, and services tailored to the customer.
Before the Internet, businesses counted on surveys, letters, and personal conversations to determine their customers’ interests. Nowadays, however, businesses only need to collect data from online sources. These online sources can count as significant websites, storefronts, and even online forums. This practice is known as data harvesting.
All that said, not everyone wants their data harvested. I know I don’t. But how can someone avoid having their data gathered? I’m glad you asked!
There are many ways to protect yourself against data harvesting, whether you’re an avid customer or a random passerby that had their cookies used for targeted ads. So without further ado, allow me to tell you about five ways you can keep your data from being harvested.
5 Ways to Protect Your Data From Data Harvesting
1. Use a Temporary E-Mail Address
While it’s nice having all of your mail sent to one email address, having companies use your primary email as a way to collect your data and find out what you’re interested in isn’t fun, especially when you keep getting emails from said companies.
But you still need to enter an email to access these websites, and you can’t exactly buy anything off Amazon without an account. Fortunately, you have the option of using a temporary email address. Yes, certain services exist only to give you a temporary email so that you can peruse these sites without having to worry about getting spam in your inbox.
2. Avoid Free Services
I like free things—who doesn’t? But even I must admit that some services are better being paid for. After all, certain free services do come with a price, just that instead of the price being paid for with your wallet, you’re paying with your data. Unknowingly, perhaps.
Take VPNs as an example. Free VPNs exist, but many of them harvest your data and collect your information. When you use free services, your activity data and personal information is often the price you pay. Make sure you take this into account when you choose a VPN app.
3. Check Your Privacy Settings
An easy—but often overlooked—way to protect yourself against data harvesting is to make sure you’ve checked off the correct privacy settings. Earlier, I mentioned cookies to harvest data, and specific settings in your browser allow you to limit cookies entirely. You can even disable them if you want!
Browsers, especially Mozilla Firefox, offer tons of ways to protect your data, so go in and make sure you go over all of the privacy settings made available to you.
4. Disable Location Services
Location services make certain apps and websites easier to use, especially when you quickly order something off Amazon and don’t want to enter your entire address. However, these services come at a cost: your data.
Geographical data is valuable to companies, and you’re better off making sure they can’t have it. To do this, disable any location services enabled on your device and browser.
5. Avoid Sketchy Websites
While big-name companies are guilty of data harvesting, smaller websites are just as guilty, especially lesser-known sites. In fact, since some of these lesser-known sites can be sketchy—such as websites that sell cheats for competitive games – they may be less – upfront about their data collecting.
Want my advice? Avoid these sites at all costs and stick to known, trusted websites. You never know what data they’re pulling.