Skip to Main Content

Digital Privacy

Tips, tools, and reading lists to support digital privacy practices across the web

Digital Privacy as Practice

Your data is lucrative! The tactics that companies and other parties use to track your activity are always evolving to maximize their access to your data. This means that you have to practice different ways to protect your data. This can look like a lot of different techniques, here are a few that you can start doing now.

  • Proactively decide which browsers you use for your internet activity
  • Install and update browser extensions
  • Actively reject unnecessary cookies
  • Install a VPN
  • Continually listen to trends developing on the web

Web Browser Privacy

About Chrome

The web browser Chrome is a web browser built and maintained by Google. This has become the favored web browser for many due to its ease of use with other Google products and customizability through extensions. This does have its advantages when it comes to user experience, but that can come at the cost of privacy.

Dig deeper

Since Google is part of a corporation owned by Alphabet Inc, you can look up their company information such as revenues and subsidiaries in Business Information Databases. Try using MarketLine to learn more about the revenue going to company that owns this browser.

About Firefox

Firefox is a free and open source web browser developed by Mozilla. Much of their marketing touts their focus and commitment on privacy. Though it is worth noting that Google is a substantial financial contributor to this browser, which does raise some eyebrows. Nevertheless, it is a tool to use outside the google suite of products. The privacy on Firefox can be boosted through a suite of trusted extensions, more on that further down the page.

Dig Deeper

Firefox is developed by the Mozilla Foundation. Typically when an entity is called a foundation, that's an indicator that it's a nonprofit organization. Other indicators are if you see that an entity is labeled as a 501(c)3. Information about nonprofits can be found in their own set of databases. Check out GuideStar Pro and search for the Mozilla Foundation to learn more about the foundation developing this web browser.

About TOR

TOR, short for The Onion Router, is a web browser that prioritizes privacy by separating identifying information from the routing information (Wikipedia). This means this browser protects identifying information such as your IP address, but it comes at the cost of speed. It is also worth noting, that because of Tor's reputation of being exceedingly private, people looking for ways to engage in illegal activity online often use it, so it has the baggage of being associated with internet crime. Though, the more people use it for legal, banal reasons, the less weight that reputation carries.

Dig Deeper

TOR is developed and maintained by the The Tor Project, Inc. When you look at the Tor Project's About Page, you'll notice that its an entity labeled as a 501(c)3; this is a type of nonprofit organization. Information about nonprofits can be found in their own set of databases. Check out GuideStar Pro and search for the the Tor Project to learn more about the foundation developing this web browser.

Browser Extensions and Plugins

Enhance privacy on your browser through extensions

Installing browser extensions are additional measures you can take to reduce intrusive ads you see online. Below are three extensions to consider installing if you're concerned about trackers following across websites.

Dig deeper

Much like with the web browsers above, browser extensions can also betray your digital privacy. Use the same techniques mentioned above to dig deeper into those developing the browsers recommended. This will require a little more digging to find out the developers. Hint: About pages are a great place to start.

Strategically Rejecting Cookies

What are cookies?

Cookies are just a text file used in web browsers that identify you to a website. There are many types of cookies you might be asked to accept when visiting a site. They can be used to save preferences, but they can also be used to track your activity on each visit you make to that site. Sometimes this is to improve their websites performance, but this can also be used for marketing purposes.

Reject Unnecessary Cookies

Tracking cookies is a continual practice. Each time you visit a new website, you might have noticed a pop up asking for you to accept their cookie policy. It's common that hitting Accept and then forgetting about it is the easiest step to get you back to what you were doing. This might seem like an innocuous choice, but it could have repercussions for your privacy. This is why websites can sometimes make it a challenge to continually reject unnecessary cookies.

Play the Reject All Cookies Challenge below to make it obvious all the different, and sometimes extreme, tactics some web developers will employ.

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)

What is a VPN and why should I use one?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a tool that creates an "encryption tunnel" that masks your IP Address from the site you're visiting. This keeps your Internet Service Provider and anyone else connected to the same wifi connection from directly accessing your internet activity and any information they can glean from it, including your financial information and physical location.

In 2023, Forbes listed 8 reasons to use a VPN

  1. Secure Wifi connections that aren't password protected
  2. Data Privacy from your Internet Service Provider
  3. Data privacy from apps you have installed
  4. Protect you from government surveillance
  5. Access content restricted in certain regions
  6. Secure sensitive information when working from home
  7. Protects vulnerable devices such as phones and tablets
  8. Potentially save money on services such as plane tickets

Which VPN should I get?

The shortlist of five VPNs listed in the Freedom of the Press Foundation's In-depth Guide to Choosing a VPN

  • Mullvad
  • Mozilla VPN
  • IVPN
  • ProtonVPN
  • Surfshark

This list is based off of technical standards, protocols, and policies. You might also want to consider subscription costs, number of devices each account supports, and speed. Looking at multiple sources when deciding on privacy tools is important. In addition to the list above, take a look through's 2023 review of VPNs as well!

A note about cost considerations: "As a general rule, if the VPN is free, you are probably the product, so stay away" Privacy is Power: Why and How you should take back control of your data, pg 204. This is one of those situations where security costs, so you'll want to pay monetarily, and not through sharing even more of your data with a "free" VPN service.

It's worth noting that though IU does have a VPN, this option is for ensuring secure access to university specific resources off campus.