Internet Security, Social Media

8 Tips to Protect Your Browsing Privacy

Online privacy is a hot topic recently with the influx of news stories about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica possibly misusing…

Online privacy is a hot topic recently with the influx of news stories about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica possibly misusing users data. Although the news stories are highlighting to people just how much Facebook knows about them, they are not the only company that keeps track of things you do online!

Virtually every interaction that takes place in a web browser is tracked in some way. There are many ways in which you are tracked online, IP address, browser cookies, HTTP referrer headers, browser fingerprints and user agents. All of these things make it possible to trace everything you do online.

Unfortunately, the majority of people are happy to hand out way too much information about themselves too – their location, their relationships and much more online.

For some users, browsing privacy is only just becoming a priority when they are online. Fortunately, we have compiled some tips, add-ons/browser extensions to try and minimize the amount of information available about you and your browsing habits.

 

Stop oversharing – Take your browsing privacy seriously

 

Our first and most obvious tip, stop oversharing your information online willingly! Whenever you disclose information online it is there forever. Whether this is on facebook, twitter or other social media try to simply not share information that is not relevant.

Simply customizing your social media settings to restrict who can see what you share is a good starting place.

Turning off location tracking in apps and your google account settings should be your next step.

Unfortunately, information shared willingly only scratches the surface of data that is stored about you online.

 

“Do Not Track”

 

All modern web browsers have the ability to toggle on a “do not track” option. This option is a W3C standard that tells websites, when enabled, to stop their user-tracking and disable cross-site user tracking.

An example of this would be targeted adverts. If you have ever been browsing for an item, an electric toothbrush, for example, you may have noticed that for weeks after you see lots of adverts or more electric toothbrushes. This example would not happen if a user had the “do not track” option enabled in their browser.

 

Ad Blockers

 

To avoid seeing adverts and many user tracking scripts at all you can simply install an ad blocker. There are many options available to you, common and powerful choices are Ad Block Plus (https://adblockplus.org/) and uBlock Origin (https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock).

 

Disable browser scripts

 

A slightly more aggressive way of blocking user tracking scripts is to install a browser add-on/extension that disables them all by default. No Script (https://noscript.net/) and ScriptSafe (https://www.andryou.com/scriptsafe/) are the most common options available.

By default, these extensions will block all Java, JavaScript, Flash and other tracking scripts generated by the site you are visiting. This “white list” approach can break some website until you enable certain scripts but it does give you the freedom and security of having everything off by default.

 

Become an online ghost with Ghostery – https://www.ghostery.com

 

Ghostery is a browser extensions/add-on that provides a safer way to browse online. It offers a wide range of features such as enhanced ad-blocking, enhanced anti-tracking, and smart blocking. By default, it blocks thousands of known user tracking scripts. Ghostery offers control over your browsing privacy by allowing you to run individual tracking scripts if for some reason you need them.

 

HTTPS Everywhere – https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere

 

HTTPS Everywhere is another browser extension/add-on that encrypts your data sent to many major websites.

Although most communication to websites nowadays is done through HTTPS, some information you send may sneak through in an unsecured, un-encrypted form. This is where HTTPS Everywhere steps in – It steps in and takes these unsecured HTTP requests and encrypts them.

 

Mozilla Facebook container – https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/facebook-container/

 

Following on from recent news stories, the Mozilla foundation has launched their Facebook container. When installed it will delete all of your previous Facebook cookies and ask you to log in using the container tab. It acts like a normal browser tab but with one important difference – Any Facebook activities are isolated from other browser activity.

Any websites with embedded Facebook widgets, such as like or share buttons will not work as your account login is contained inside the Facebook container tab. This makes it so that Facebook loses the ability to track your browsing activity outside of Facebook. A simple yet efficient way of restoring some browsing privacy to your daily Facebook session!

 

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

 

In one of our previous articles – Do I need a VPN for 2018 We discussed the pros of a VPN for the average user. The main point that we took from the article was that by having a VPN you are ensuring that all your online browsing information is invisible to your ISP.

A VPN will stop your ISP spying on your online browsing activities but is not a golden bullet to online browsing privacy. Using a (reputable!) VPN in conjunction with some of the add-ons/extensions mentioned in this article would be a very powerful combination to stay safe online.

 

 

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FACT CHECK: SSS has no ongoing scholarship program

SUMMARY This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article. The Social Security System warns the public about fake posts bearing the agency’s logo that contain suspicious links promoting an alleged scholarship program Claim: The Social Security System (SSS) posted an application link for its 2024 scholarship

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

FACT CHECK: SSS has no ongoing scholarship program
The Social Security System warns the public about fake posts bearing the agency’s logo that contain suspicious links promoting an alleged scholarship program

Claim: The Social Security System (SSS) posted an application link for its 2024 scholarship program offering elementary, high school, and college students allowances of up to P10,000. 

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was uploaded on the Facebook page “Philippine Scholar,” which has been previously fact-checked by Rappler for disseminating false information on student aid supposedly from government agencies. 

The post claims that the 2024 SSS scholarship program offers P4,000 for elementary students, P6,000 for junior high school students, P8,000 for senior high school students, and P10,000 for college students.

The post also included a link to an unverified website where applicants are asked to provide their personal information such as name, email, and phone number. 

While the post was dated January 17, it continues to receive comments and engagements from Facebook users inquiring about the program. As of writing, the post has received 76 reactions, 224 comments, and 12 shares. 

Additionally, the website for the supposed application is still actively posting unverified scholarship programs from various public officials and agencies.

The facts: SSS does not offer the alleged scholarship program, the state-owned social insurance agency said in an advisory on January 18. 

Walang ongoing scholarship program ang Social Security System para sa mga miyembro at benepisyaryo nito, o maging sa publiko. Huwag maniwala sa mga balita, post o private messages sa social media na nag-aalok nito,” the advisory read.

(The Social Security System has no ongoing scholarship program for its members and beneficiaries, or even for the public. Do not believe the news, posts, or private messages on social media that offer this.)

SSS also warned the public that these misleading posts are likely schemes that may put their personal data at risk.

For SSS-related concerns, the public is advised to direct their inquiries to the official SSS channels or through their verified support ticket system, the uSSSap Tayo Portal.

Educational assistance: What SSS offers is the Educational Assistance Loan Program (EALP), a short-term member loan program for eligible SSS member-borrowers intended to defray educational expenses for undergraduate degrees and technical or vocational courses.

According to the EALP application form on the SSS website, the maximum loanable amount is P20,000 per academic term, or a maximum allocation of P160,000 and P200,000 in full allocation for four and five-year degree programs, respectively. 

Meanwhile, qualified member-borrowers may apply for a maximum amount of between P40,000 and P60,000 for vocational or technical courses.

The loan program is funded by both the national government and SSS. To apply, individuals must submit an accomplished EALP application form and supporting documents to the nearest SSS office.

Debunked: Rappler has published several fact-checks about fake scholarship programs allegedly from government agencies:

  • FACT CHECK: DepEd doesn’t offer up to P10,000 scholarship via online forms
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  • FACT CHECK: DOLE-NLRC has no scholarship program

Official accounts: For official updates on the programs and services of SSS, refer to its official website, X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube accounts.  – Larry Chavez/Rappler.com

Larry Chavez is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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