What Can I Do Right Now?

First take the three key ideas from information security:  C-I-A:  Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability.   Take one at a time, and work your way through the list.

  1. Use a private messaging application.  Only the sender and receiver can read the message (think of it like a sealed envelope: the postal carrier doesn’t read the contents of the message — unlike conventional TXT or MultiMedia messages, which are more like postcards, where the carrier or application provider can read your message).  A nice summary with EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) ratings is presented here.    Whatever the promises made by the vendor of the app or software, you implicitly have to trust their integrity; for example, Apple’s iMessage is now encrypted “end to end”, but you still rely on Apple to do what they claim.   Signal is already mentioned elsewhere on this site.  This supports the Confidentiality of your information.
    • Use a private email service.   ProtonMail (free level) and StartMail (with nominal cost) encrypt your messages “end to end”
  2. Use a non-tracking search engine.   StartPage and  DuckDuckGo both promise to avoid tracking, logging, or using (selling) your searches and linking them to your identity.
    • Browser add-on or plugins like Privacy Badger, Ghostery, and LightBeam can block tracking sites.
    • Any of these can help protect your privacy by blocking both tracking and logging activities, but you as a user, must change your habits, and live with some level of inconvenience since many sites won’t work perfectly or as quickly.
  3. Protect your passwords.   If you have the most secure software or app, and use a weak password, attackers will figure it out, and your privacy is gone, and it’s only your own fault.   Even better, use “two factor” authentication — having some additional confirmation beyond just “username and password” to access your account.   All the major apps, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft,  support the use of an app or TXT, or verification code sent by email to prevent unauthorized use of your account.   Enforcing control so only authorized individuals have access to your information, is part of information Integrity (not altered without your authorization) and Availability (if you can’t get them they are not available to you).
  4. Back up your important files and precious family photos you want to keep.   Many free and low cost services are available that automatically back up your files, photos, and videos.   This is not specifically related to the core objective of this site, which is to look at the Privacy of your personal information, but without Integrity and Availability, preserving only your Confidentiality is a very incomplete answer.
  5. … more coming …