Internet Privacy Tips For The Truly Paranoid

The debate about privacy in the age of modern technology reignited in early 2016 after Apple refused to comply with a federal court order to help the FBI unlock the iPhone of one of the perpetrators of a violent shooting. The notion of necessary trade-offs between privacy and security, certainly after the Snowden leaks, remains in the zeitgeist. This prompted us to look at ways that you, eager reader, can fortify your online privacy. Granted, these tips won't help you if you're running afoul of the law. Nevertheless, here are some ways to maintain a modicum of privacy by preventing employers, exes, advertisers, identity thieves, and yes, even the government, from easily accessing your personal information.

Delete your info from Internet "White Pages"

Internet "white pages" include sites like Pipl, Spokeo, Peoplesmart, and MyLife. These are virtual repositories of information about private individuals. These sites collect information from publicly available sources like social media accounts, real estate records, voter registration, etc. and stock them in one place. The sites then charge users a fee to access the full roster of information about someone. Such sites might list your relatives, e-mail addresses, social media accounts (with pictures), old Tweets, and previous places of residence. Luckily, there are ways to "opt-out" and remove your information. The deletion process is different for each site, but the method is usually only a Google search away.

Minimize your social media exposure

The siren call of social media is difficult to resist. After all, without Facebook, how else can you compare yourself to the new husband of your high school girlfriend? You know, the one who dumped you for the captain of the football team? Nevertheless, we advise minimizing your social media presence if you really want to remain anonymous online. Do you really need a Google Plus account? It's just one more thing for potential employers and would-be dates to use to uncover information about you without your permission. If possessing a Facebook account is crucial to your existence, then use some of the privacy filters to make sure not just anyone can see your old college sorority party photos. That one photo especially...

Create a "burner" email address

Create an email address that does not contain your name or any identifying characteristics. Something like, "CaptainKirksToupee" at Yahoo is a good choice—unless you happen to be William Shatner. Use this email address when you sign up to various websites. That way, if someone hacks your main email account, then they can't get your passwords for all your other accounts—Amazon, eBay, etc.—by clicking on the "Forgot My Password" button. There are sites like Guerrilla Mail that are designed specifically to help users create temporary email accounts.

Use the Tor Browser

No, Tor isn't a weird rip-off of everyone's favorite Marvel Comics Norse god. It's a unique browser that helps you to maintain anonymity from advertisers and anyone else who may track your search history with your IP address. Simply put, Tor accomplishes this by encrypting your traffic as it moves across its servers. The trade-off is that Tor can make your Internet browsing experience slow. There isn't a compelling reason to use Tor for Mr. Joe Average who only cares about re-writing Wikipedia articles on The Golden Girls. But, if you're supremely paranoid then strap on your tin foil helmet and boot up Tor.

Diversify your passwords

Don't use the name of your cocker spaniel, Lucky, for every email, social media, and retail site that you use. The pitfalls of doing so are obvious. If someone knows your password, then he or she can access all of your accounts. There are sites that can create randomized passwords or you can turn on two-step verification (available through Google, Twitter, and many other major sites). Having a different password for each site may make them difficult to remember. Then again, maybe you should yourself if you really need accounts on half of these sites. How often do you really read the articles on Sloth Lovers Monthly?

Live as a Luddite

If the tips above aren't extreme enough for you, fear not. No one can violate your Internet privacy if you reject modern technology altogether. Live "off the grid" in a cabin in rural Montana. You can use the original Bitcoin—beaver pelts—in exchange for goods and services at the local bait shop. Sure, you can't torrent Deadpool, but you'll be too worried about rickets to care. If you do need physical cash, then print your own or take advantage of a bubble that will truly never burst: meth production. Please note: we're seriously just kidding about the meth part. Drugs are bad.

Move to Eritrea

Will the temptation to watch Broad City on Hulu still be too great in Montana? Then become an expatriate in Eritrea! Why? Because this African nation is the least-connected country in the world. Only .91% of its approximatively 6.5 million people have access to the Internet. Yes, you'll be living in a brutal dictatorship, but who needs human rights anyway? Think of it as North Korea without all the gloomy winters. Plus, the few people who use the Internet there will be far too busy worrying about government thugs to bother stalking you on Facebook.