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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How To Keep People and Apps From Stealing Your Data

Updated: Aug 13, 2021

It's Data Privacy Day and what a good time to make sure your personal data is safe. Many of the devices you use are collecting your personal data. It could be your smart home hubs, your computer and even the social media sites that you visit. The disturbing thing is when we signed up to use these devices, we never agreed to give up our personal data. What's worse is large corporations do a poor job of protecting that data, which winds up on the hands of cybercriminals. Want to take control of your personal data? Follow these steps that will keep what you do online and in your home safe and secure.

1. Surf the Web Using Incognito Mode. When you visit web sites, there a good chance the site you're on is reading your cookies. Cookies are files that all web site put into your browser to make the web site you are visiting come up quicker. The downside of cookies is they can be used by other web sites to see where you've been and use that information to target ads to you. Stop that practice by going into the settings for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari, and Opera and turn on 'In Private' or 'Incognito Mode' when you enable this setting, it blocks other web sites from seeing your cookies, keeping your surfing safe and secure.

Here are the steps for each browser:

Google Chrome Incognito Mode.

On Windows and Mac

You can start an incognito window by clicking the special menu in the top-right corner of the browser window. On Windows, it will be three lines and on macOS, it will be three dots. Then, choose “New Incognito Window”. (You can also access this option from the File menu on a Mac.)

On Android and iOS

If you use Chrome on a mobile device such as an Android phone, iPhone, or iPad, you can tap the three dots in the upper-right corner of the browser window and select “New incognito tab” from the dropdown menu.

Mozilla Firefox: Open a Private Browsing Window

Firefox simply calls their mode “Private Browsing”. Like Chrome, it can be accessed from the menu in the upper-right corner. Just click “New Private Window”. (You can also access this option from the File menu on a Mac.)

Internet Explorer: Open an InPrivate Browsing Window

To access its private browsing mode, called InPrivate Browsing, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner then Safety > InPrivate Browsing.

Microsoft Edge: Open an InPrivate Browsing Window

To open a new InPrivate window, use the menu from the upper-right corner or press Ctrl+Shift+P on your keyboard.

Safari: Open a Private Browsing Window

On a Mac

The Private Window option is accessible from the File menu.

On iOS

If you’re using an iPhone or iPad and surfing with Safari, then you can use private mode on it as well. To do so, first tap the new tab icon in the lower-right corner of the new tab screen. Now, tap “Private” in the lower-left corner.

For even more privacy consider a VPN that stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN creates a secure tunnel that keeps all prying eyes off your data when you're on the internet. Opera and Firefox have VPN built into it. For complete protection, consider Tunnel Bear or NordVPN.

2. Turn off Smart Hub Collection Data. Your Google Home and Amazon Alexa are helpful devices and a crucial part of your smart home, but unfortunately, these devices collect data on you. Part of the reason for the data collection is to learn your vocal habits so these devices work better for you. The other part is to discover your habits to sell to marketers who use that information to target ads based on your voice requests. Want to turn that off? Here's how:

To delete your Alexa history, open the Alexa app on your phone and go to Settings > History. In this view, you can only delete entries one by one. To delete en masse, go to Alexa Privacy Settings on Amazon's website and then choose Review Voice History.

For Google Assistant, go to and click the three dots in the upper-right corner. Then choose Delete Activity. Then you can choose a date range—today, yesterday, last 7 days, last 30 days, all time, or custom—for the entries you want to delete. Then navigate through All Products > Voice & Audio > Delete.

3. Find out if your information is floating on the web. One of the ways your information gets out on the web is from large company data breaches. They happen so often, it's hard to keep track of who's been breached. Want to find out if your information is out there, do the following:

Visit . Once there, type in your email address. It will let you if you've been 'pwned' (which means owned ... or breached in this case). If you have, you need to take steps to change any password you used in conjunction with the email address that's been leaked. If you don't, your information could be used in what's call credential stuffing, where criminals use your leaked information to hijack your online accounts.

Visit: This web site keeps track of all of the data breaches that have occurred since 2012. You can see if a company you work with has been breached and then take the steps recommended by this site to protect your information.

4. Protect your privacy on your phone. Smartphones rock ... those little mini-computers in our pockets help us do just about everything ... even collecting your data. Want to stop that? Your first step is to turn off location services with your apps. Sometimes that's hard to avoid, but for the most part, most apps can survive without knowing your location. Next, you want to turn off your mobile ID. This feature allows providers and app developers to track what you do on your smartphone.

Reset Advertising ID on Android

The steps for resetting your ad ID and turning off ad personalization are essentially the same for all versions of Android, though things may vary slightly. Head to Settings > Google > Ads > Reset advertising ID and click OK when the confirmation screen appears. You should also want to make sure to opt-out of ads personalization. Or, on other versions of Android, it might say “Opt-out of interest-based ads” and you may find a toggle switch or checkbox to enable it.

Reset Advertising Identifier on iOS

You can do the same on your iOS device as well. On your iPhone or iPad head to Settings > Privacy > Reset Advertising Identifier and then Reset Identifier when the prompt comes up. Just like with Android, here you should also turn on the option to limit ad tracking.

5. Turn off Tracking in Windows 10. Windows 10 is a combination of a desktop and mobile operating system and works similar to your smartphone and tablet as it has tracking built into the operating system. What to keep WIndows secure? Do the following: Launch the Windows 10 Settings app (by clicking on the Start button at the lower-left corner of your screen and then clicking the Settings icon, which looks like a gear) and go to Privacy > General. There you'll see a list of choices under the title "Change privacy options"; the first controls the advertising ID. Move the slider from On to Off.

Data privacy is important in the digital age. You want to do what you can to keep your personal data safe. The fewer people who have your information, the less control large corporations have over your lives. You can expect to see changes in the privacy laws in the months ahead, but in the meantime, use these steps to keep your information safe.

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If you need on-site or remote tech support for your Windows\Macintosh, computers, laptops, Android/Apple smartphone, tablets, printers, routers, smart home devices, and anything that connects to the Internet, please feel free to contact my team at Integral. My team of friendly tech experts are always standing by to answer your questions and help make your technology useful and fun. Reach out to us a or phone at 888.256.0829. 

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