Jump to content

How to regain your online privacy


Recommended Posts

  • Administrator

Nowadays it's hard to keep your online life private, so we've compiled an extensive two part guide that helps you regain your online privacy. Part one looks at drastic measures you can take

These days it is very hard to keep your profile low when you are online. Services that are used every day by many, such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, aren’t exactly known for keeping your data especially private by default. Advertising companies are also known for tracking your browsing habits across many websites using cookies, so they no doubt know more about you than you realize.

So, in this age of compromised digital privacy, how do you regain your footing and protect yourself from things that may come back to bite you? We have this handy guide to tell you just what you can do to keep private online.

Drastic measures

The following measures will almost certainly help you regain some privacy, but it will be at a cost. As such, we recommend that you only take these drastic measures if you want to try as best you can to erase your online profile and start fresh. You will almost certainly have to make sacrifices, so if you are not willing to take these drastic measures then skip forward to the less drastic measures section.

Delete your Google account

Deleting your Google account will ensure that they no longer use your personal information to target advertisements to you across their services, and data that you gave to Google will be erased.

Nowadays it's hard to keep your online life private, so we've compiled an extensive two part guide that helps you regain your online privacy. Part two looks at the less drastic measures you can take


First we recommend downloading all your data from your Google account before deleting it. To do this, use their Takeout service by going to google.com/takeout. All the services that support Takeout will be visible here and you can simple click the Create Archive button, then Download once the process is finished to download a complete archive of all the data Google stored.

To delete your Google account go to your account settings, and in the Account overview simply select Delete entire Google account to remove it. This will also remove your accounts at Google+, Picasa and YouTube as these are all Google services.

Delete your Facebook account

Like with your Google account, if you are worried about keeping extremely private on the internet it is a good idea to delete your Facebook account as data from this can be accessed by many individuals.

Again, Facebook allows you to download all the data that is stored by them. Open up your account settings and on the General Account Settings page towards the bottom there is a link to Download a copy of your Facebook data. Follow the prompts and you can get a copy of everything before you delete your account.


Facebook makes it harder to delete your entire account than Google. Click on the Security sidebar tab to access your security settings and then at the bottom click Deactivate your account. Facebook will attempt to guilt trip you into staying and asks that you explain yourself (luckily there’s a handy “I have a privacy concern” checkbox) before you deactivate.

If deactivating is enough for you then fine, but this doesn’t actually delete your account; instead it places it in a state of suspension until you one day decide you might like to return. If you actually want to delete it completely, you’ll need to follow this link

Delete your Twitter account

Like Facebook, Twitter only has the visible option to deactivate your account; this setting is available under your main account settings towards the bottom. However, 30 days after deactivation your entire account, with all data, will be deleted. This makes things simple if you want to delete your Twitter account as you can simply deactivate it and wait 30 days for all your data to be erased.

Delete your Windows Live account

Windows Live is another popular service that you may want to delete if you want to disappear into the void; however the options to do so are slightly more hidden than the other services. It seems Microsoft would prefer it if you didn’t delete your Windows Live account, although we eventually found how to do it.


  1. Log in to your Live account and click on the down arrow next to your name
  2. Click Account
  3. Under the Other Options settings around half-way down the list of links there is a link that says Close your account. Click that.
  4. Read how some of your account information will not be deleted and sigh; read the other warnings
  5. Open a new browser tab, go to this link and read how you can access your account information.
  6. Go to all the applicable accounts and manually delete your personal information.
  7. If you want to complain to Microsoft about doing this or want to request that they wipe all your account information for you, contact them through their support website
  8. Go back to your account settings tab and delete your account

It’s annoying, but it doesn’t seem that Microsoft deletes all your private data once your account is closed. We’re not sure why this happens, but for the few that do want to close it you will have to go through laborious steps to manually remove your data.

Delete other accounts

We have listed ways to delete some of the most used accounts, but obviously if you use other accounts frequently this will not scrub away all of your internet identity. We aren’t going to list how to remove your account on every single service on the internet, so you’ll need to find how to do that yourself.

Many online services have a simple link to delete your account, however there are some (especially forums) that do not. In the case of forums, it is advised that you delete your personally identifiable information (such as real names, photos) from your profile before leaving. As deleting forum posts and accounts could leave major gaps in content, and forums like our own do not store personal info aside from IPs and email addresses (which are only accessible by the staff), it is unlikely that people could trace your content to you.

Permanently set your browser to private browsing

Despite not having accounts on any internet services, websites (such as Google) may still track your online identity across different websites using “cookies”. Cookies are small bites of code that are stored in your browser and can send information to websites upon certain web actions. For more information on cookies check here.


Cookies and many other tracking tools can be rendered useless by setting your browser to private browsing mode. In some browsers such as Chrome and Firefox you can open new private browsing sessions upon request, but every time you open your browser again you return to normal mode where cookies can be stored once again.

On many browsers enabling private browsing from start-up requires an add-on, while others require changing the browser’s settings. We’ve listed some options for each major browser below:

  • For Firefox, the Toggle Private Browsing add-on has an option to automatically open in private browsing mode; download it here. Under the browser privacy options you can also tell websites you do not want to be tracked.
  • For Chrome, there is no easy extension to do this. However, you can force it into private browsing mode for all websites using the Incognito Regex extension. Once you have installed this add-on simply go to the options and input .* as a pattern to have all website URLs automatically open in Incognito mode. Download it here.
  • Internet Explorer (we tested IE9) has the option to automatically block all cookies. Click the options cog, go into Internet Options, go to the Privacy tab then scroll the bar all the way up to Block all Cookies. Click okay and you are done. Unfortunately this isn’t a secure as the other browsers as it will still log browsing history, but the Paper Shredder add-on will automatically delete your history after each browsing session. Get that add-on here.
  • For Opera, press F12 and uncheck Enable Cookies and Send referrer information. More advanced privacy settings can be found in the Advanced tab of the browser preferences.
  • Safari is generally horrible when it comes to user customization, so you’ll either need to manually enter private browsing every time you use the browser or simply switch to a better browser like those we listed above

It’s a good idea to use private browsing mode all the time in conjunction with some of the less drastic measures that are detailed in part two, so check back tomorrow for more methods for keeping private online.

Use a proxy

You have taken most of the steps to ensure you are private online, but sometimes websites can track you without cookies on your computer. Usually this is done by recording an IP address on their server, and you can’t really change this as you don’t have access to their servers to delete their records of you.


The best way to protect yourself from this is to use a proxy or online anonymizer. Free proxies are generally rubbish, slow and unusable; however the free project Tor aims to keep you private while online using their free and open-source application. Check out their project here to learn more about how their program works and how to keep private online: https://www.torproject.org/

If you would prefer to use a standard proxy, check out http://proxy.org/ as they are quite good at notifying you about which proxies are currently working and accessible.

Part two

If you would prefer not to take such drastic measures, for example you may prefer to keep your social network accounts, then check part two which details how to secure your social accounts, which search engines don't track you and how to tweak your browser for maximum security.

These days it is very hard to keep your profile low when you are online. Services that are used every day by many, such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, aren’t exactly known for keeping your data especially private by default. Advertising companies are also known for tracking your browsing habits across many websites using cookies, so they no doubt know more about you than you realize.

So, in this age of compromised digital privacy, how do you regain your footing and protect yourself from things that may come back to bite you? We have this handy guide to tell you just what you can do to keep private online.

We've already posted up the first part, where we go over some of the more drastic measures you can take to regain your online privacy. Today's second part is all about the less drastic measures.

Less drastic measures

Many of the things listed in the “drastic measures” section are over the top and unnecessary for the average user. So if you would prefer to keep your online accounts but still remain private, then read the tips below to see how to strengthen your online security and privacy.

Tighten your Facebook privacy settings

Many people have very open Facebook profiles, allowing anyone (and potentially anything) access to personal data such as photos, locations and phone numbers. While this data may be useful for your friends on the service, it isn’t so much for internet randoms, so here’s how you can crank up the security on your account.


  1. Click on the down arrow next to your name and then go to Privacy settings
  2. First, change your default privacy to Friends rather than Friends of Friends so that people who haven’t added you have less visibility
  3. Check the settings below these boxes for anything that may potentially be leaking unwanted information to the masses. Be wary of anything that lists access to “Everyone” and consider restricting access just to friends. In particular look out for the profile look-up settings under How You Connect.
  4. Click on the Manage Past Post Visibility link to change any old public posts to have visibility to just your friends.
  5. Go back to your News Feed after adjusting your privacy settings and click on Create Status. From here there is a drop-down menu next to the Post button that allows you to control who sees your posted content. We advise changing this to Friends, and even if you don’t immediately post a status your selection will be saved.

Tighten your Twitter privacy settings

Twitter by nature is a very public service and is not an ideal social network to be using if you desire maximum online privacy. However, there are some steps that can be taken to ensure that the content you post is not accessed by the wrong types of people (like bosses, employers and ex-girlfriends).

The first step is to protect your tweets. This means that whatever you tweet can only be seen by your followers and you have full control over who can follow you by accepting follow requests similar to friend requests on Facebook. To do this head to your account settings and then under the first Account tab there is a single Protect my Tweets checkbox that enables this setting.


The second thing you can do is remove all location data from your tweets to ensure that people don’t know where you are. This is done in the same account settings tab; simply deselect Add a location to your Tweets and then click the Delete all location information button to ensure that all location data is removed from past posts.

Other than those two things there aren’t many other steps that you can take to secure your Twitter profile, but usually protecting your Tweets does most of the work.

Tighten your Google account privacy settings

Tightening the privacy on your Google account is trickier than Facebook or Twitter as Google has a lot of different services that you might use. Luckily the Google Dashboard helps you manage all your accounts and gives you some handy links to change the privacy of multiple services. Below we have listed the most critical accounts that you should protect and how to do so.


Google+: Privacy settings for Google’s social network are spread across three main areas. The first is post content, and you can restrict who sees that via setting appropriate Circles and selecting to only share to those circles. The second is your profile, which may have public information; to rectify this visit your profile and change any fields that may be public to private. Finally there are the account privacy settings that control what appears in search and photo settings; controlling that is available under the Privacy link when you click on your name in the top bar.

Tip: If you have a Google+ account that you don’t use, we suggest deleting it. You can do that without deleting your Google account by choosing Delete profile and remove associated Google+ features from the account setting overview.

Latitude: Google’s social-location service (similar to Foursquare) is a breeding ground for Google and others to know where you are and have been. The service is disabled by default but if you do enable it, you can either disable it or heavily restrict it via the Manage privacy link in your Google Dashboard.

Web History: This is another service that some users may have enabled, and it is likely used by Google to personalize your advertisements. In the Dashboard there is a button to Remove items or clear Web History, which allows you to completely erase your web history and then disable it from logging future searches.

Picasa: As Picasa stores your photos, potentially of yourself or loved ones, it’s important that these aren’t visible to the public. To ensure that albums are private you will need to change the album visibility in the album properties to either Only you or Limited depending on your preference. You can also adjust some other minor privacy settings via the link in the Dashboard.

Tip: If you want to stop using Picasa, we recommend using Google Takeout to download your images before deleting all the albums in your account

YouTube: Finally, you may want to secure your YouTube account. This is another two-step process: the first involves removing all irrelevant fields from your public profile such as deleting your name and location; secondly you can tweak your privacy settings as linked to in the Dashboard. We highly recommend unchecking Please use my account information to provide me with relevant advertising for maximum privacy.


One last good thing you can do in the Dashboard is have Google email you whenever your personal information is posted publicly. To enable this, go to the Me on the Web section and click on the Set up search alerts for your data link. From here you can customize special terms to be notified when they are indexed, such as your email addresses and phone numbers.

Tighten your Windows Live privacy settings

Microsoft makes it really easy to control the privacy settings on your Windows Live account. Simply log in and click on the down arrow next to your name and go to the Privacy settings link. From here either choose Private or click Advanced and manually move the sliders to your preferred privacy settings for each area of your account.


You may also want to change your Xbox Live privacy settings, which differ from the standard Windows Live settings. This is also easy: go to Xbox.com, click on My Account followed by Privacy and Online Settings on the right hand side and then log in again. Once you are in you can change several settings to either friends only or blocked modes. Obviously choosing Blocked gives you the greatest privacy here.

Clean your social app permissions

Most social networks allow developers to use their API in their applications, and each time you use said application you are asked for permission. As you continue to use new applications, you may be inadvertently sharing your personal information and other unwanted information, and you may not even used these apps any more.


Luckily there is an easy way to clean up your application permissions: mypermissions.org. This handy website links directly to the application permission page for 11 different social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn and Foursqaure. They claim cleaning app permissions only takes 2 minutes and we have to agree that it is very easy. We recommend removing/denying permission from any applications that you no longer use; this way they can’t access your data at all and you lose no functionality.

You can also get the website to remind you monthly to check up on your application permissions, just to ensure that there are no rouge apps farming your information.

Use a non-tracking search engine

Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo all collect your personal information to try and personalize your searches and advertisements. Over the course of many years using the same search engine these services could have a mountain of information about your browsing habits, especially if you previously had web history enabled on your favourite search engine’s account.

Not only that, searches you perform could be restricted to just your interests, rather than showing everything that is available on the internet. One example is that after many years of being a tech-savvy searcher, your search for “apple” would only show results about the large tech company. Using a private search engine that doesn’t log your IP address allows you to get results for the company, the fruit and even dietary advice.


We suggest using the search engine Ixquick so that your searches are no longer logged and altered depending on your habits. The site says it is the “world’s most private search engine”, and not only do they encrypt searches using SSL but they also have an extensive privacy policy that highlights the importance of not having your searches logged. You can read their policy here.

The search engine also uses a unique star rating system that uses the top results from other search engines to produce a very accurate top ten results list on Ixquick: one star for one engine agreeing on a top result up to five for five engines agreeing. Essentially you are getting a consensus choice from many different sources and the results in our experience are very accurate.

If you want to keep your searches private and not logged, we highly recommend Ixquick as the search engine of choice.

Tweak your browser to regain privacy

We’ve already mentioned some browser plug-ins that can be used to automatically put your browser into private browsing mode (check those out in the Drastic section), but if you actually use accounts on websites then this isn’t particularly ideal. So instead, we have listed some other extensions and browser settings that you can use to stop websites tracking you when you don’t want them to.

All: We recommend installing an ad-blocker to prevent advertising agencies from tracking you via scripts that may be included in their ads. AdBlock is usually available for most web browsers, but please remember that many websites, such as ours, rely on advertising for keeping the site running. Consider subscribing to Neowin, which with a Tier 2 subscription supports the site while removing ads.


AdBlock Plus also has an EasyPrivacy subscription that disables tracking scripts on many websites. You can use this in conjunction with a full ad block list if you desire maximum security, although some specialized add-ons that we mention below allow you to tweak website tracking.

Firefox: The first thing you should do with Firefox is go into the options and then to the Privacy tab. Check the box that says Tell web sites I do not want to be tracked. It’s also advisable to have a master password on the browser for increased security; you can set that up under the Security tab.

When it comes to add-ons for Firefox we recommend firstly installing Ghostery. This add-on allows you to see which websites are tracking you and manually stop them from doing so. It has a robust set of privacy features that are well worth exploring.


Another add-on worth looking at is BetterPrivacy, which prevents long term cookies (often called “Super-Cookies”) and locally stored objects from plug-ins such as Flash. These can be used to track you and this plug-in deals with them automatically.

Finally you should look at RequestPolicy, an add-on which allows you to see which websites are using cross-site requests and block them effectively. As the developers put it: “Cross-site requests are requests that your browser is told to make by a website you are visiting to a completely different website.” To stop this behaviour you can get the add-on here.

These are just some of the many privacy-related plug-ins available to Firefox users, so please check out the full list for more intricate control and monitoring of your privacy. We have simply listed the three which are most important when it comes to preventing tracking of your online identity.

Chrome: For Chrome we recommend disabling Instant if you have enabled it, because as the browser says, the Omnibox input may be logged; the option to disable this is in the basic options. Then, head over to the Under the Hood section and click on Content settings… . Once you are in there we recommend checking Block third-party cookies from being set and choosing Do not allow any site to track my physical location.

Like with Firefox, Ghostery is available for Chrome and can be installed by following this link. It allows you to see which websites are tracking you and manually stop them from doing so.


We also recommend Google’s very own Keep My Opt-Outs extension that permanently disables advertising personalization across Google’s services by a set of cookies. It’s good to see Google willing putting up an extension that takes care of this for you, and it's also available for Firefox and Internet Explorer

Finally we suggest installing A Little Privacy, which is a combination extension that blocks referrer URLS, removes redirect trackers and resolves short URLs so you know exactly where you are going. It does make changes to websites' code to prevent tracking, but the developer claims that most functionality of the website remains in-tact.

Internet Explorer: The first thing you should do if you plan on using Internet Explorer is update to the latest version. Then, thanks to Microsoft, you can use the in-built tracking protection feature to stop websites from tracking you. Click on the settings cog and then go to Safety > Tracking protection from the drop-down list.

Here you can click on the Get a Tracking Protection List online link to browse the Internet Explorer Gallery. We recommend choosing the first tracking protection list which is called the EasyPrivacy Tracking Protection List, as this is based on the EasyPrivacy subscription from AdBlock Plus. Clicking Add and then following the prompts will install this list for you and update it every week.


There aren’t any other especially brilliant features or extensions to mention when it comes to IE (except for the Google Opt-Out add-on), so you might want to consider switching to a different browser for advanced privacy control via add-ons.

Opera: With Opera the first step to take is tweak the in-built preferences. You can disable sending referrer information by pressing F12 and deselecting Send referrer information. Then press Ctrl+F12 to access the main preferences and go to Advanced > Network and deselect Enable automatic redirection and Enable geolocation.


As with the other browsers we recommend installing Ghostery via this link. We also recommend installing NoAds Advanced and installing the EasyPrivacy list from AdBlock Plus. Get that extension here.

If you are looking for more control over your online privacy it’s probably better to choose a browser like Firefox or Chrome as extensions in Opera are relatively new.

Safari: Safari is probably the worst browser for keeping private online (as we have mentioned before), and the only worthwhile extension to install is Ghostery that is also available for Chrome and Firefox. Get it here or alternatively ditch the browser for a better one.


Well, we have now provided you with a myriad of ways to regain your online privacy, whether it is taking the drastic measure of deleting your social networking accounts and using a proxy or simply installing a few browser add-ons and switching search engines.

view.gif View: Original Article (Part 1) & Original Article (Part 2)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 10
  • Views 3.1k
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Great work DKT :) but I doubt anyone would adopt such measures (drastic) just to be private on the internet. It's just too much of hassle. I mean, ditching Google for better privacy? I don't think many would do that. Even if you take such measures, you'll be missing a lot of what internet has to offer anyway. So the cost of adopting all such measures outweighs the benefit gained from them. Just my opinion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Administrator

That's why the part 2 is so important. :)

Also, it depends on user perspective. Some do like taking drastic measures. :P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The way I do it :

Mozilla Firefox 10.0

Add-ons : Adblock Plus, BetterPrivacy, Dr.Web Anti-Virus link checker, Flagfox, Ghostery, NoScript, VTzilla, LastPass

Sandboxie, VPN

Messenger: Pidgin

Mozilla Firefox:Tools~Options~Privacy~"Tell websites I do not want to be tracked" checked !

Also if u don't use VPN and use google, there is mozzila add-on that generates random words and disable google from creating profile of your habits( don't know its name atm.).

BetterPrivacy add-on will automatically remove flash/LSO cookies after you exit firefox !

I also use CCleaner with CEnhancer and/or SlimCleaner !

Also disable registry change from network and disable Remote assistance!

Social network settings:

Maximum privacy, very few important informations, small number of low quality large distance pictures, since chats are recorded I use messenger, Pidgin, which is IMO much better than WLM and allows multiple accounts !

I don't use Chromium, i use, if I am not on VPN, scroogle,

in all programs if available I disable sending informations to companies,

i also don't use real email address, always use option "Hide e-mail address" and I don't register for everything I see!

Use only sites/forums whom you can trust - line nsane :D

Use brain/common sense and don't believe in everything you see !

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just wanted to know, if you have Ghostery enabled on Chrome, do you still need Google Opt-Out add-on?

That's why the part 2 is so important. :)

Also, it depends on user perspective. Some do like taking drastic measures. :P

Might also want to add unsubscribe.com to your list. It comes very handy for me to stop spam and other functions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Administrator

I just wanted to know, if you have Ghostery enabled on Chrome, do you still need Google Opt-Out add-on?

That's why the part 2 is so important. :)

Also, it depends on user perspective. Some do like taking drastic measures. :P

Might also want to add unsubscribe.com to your list. It comes very handy for me to stop spam and other functions.

Merged both the posts.

I don't think so, Ghostery is good, I'm using it from years on my Firefox, but just incase there's some way that it doesn't do the thing efficiently, then it's better to have. Ghostery also takes care of cookies on Firefox, I don't remember about Chrome though.

The article isn't mine, and the original author may not like if I make any major changes. :P Otherwise, there are several websites that I could mention. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You you make a second post to the topic and write all the websites you know. That way you won't be angering the original author and the community will benefit from additional knowledge.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...