With an unprecedented number of people using online and digital services in their daily lives, the internet has become a very profitable marketplace for businesses and individuals. As more people seek solutions to services and products online, the demand likewise has increased. With more than $5 trillion in online commerce alone generated in 2020, it’s not surprising that many have discovered the inherent value of online operations.
What many may not realize is that their own personal data has value as well. From browsing habits and social media activity to the inherent financial value of bank accounts and credit cards, it seems virtually everybody can now extract some of this wealth. Unfortunately, some do it for the wrong reasons: whether it be through shadowy terms of service agreements or outright theft, virtually everybody has something to lose (or gain) financially via online methods these days.
Mac users in particular have been well-shielded from viruses over the years, but even they are now vulnerable to data breaches, theft, and privacy concerns. To minimize these worries, let’s look at some solutions to this concern and help minimize how bad actors can capitalize on your information.
When In Doubt, Check Security and Privacy Settings
Before all else, you need to ensure that your computer is secure via its Mac preferences. Any Mac OS comes complete with Security and Privacy settings located in the “System Preferences” section. From here, you will be able to gather a lot of information about what data is being transmitted to and from your computer/device.
Location Services in particular is a good place to start within these settings. You can configure which apps and programs are transmitting information about your real-time location. Additionally, your Security and Privacy settings will allow configurations for which apps and programs can access any personal or proprietary information stored within other Mac apps such as your contacts and calendar.
Focus on Securing Your Browser
By default, Mac devices come with Safari for browser use. This is an excellent choice in terms of compatibility with Mac devices and ensures smooth function. However, this browser can also collect a large amount of information about you and transmit it to other entities.
By going to Safari’s search preferences, you can disable Spotlight Suggestions – which runs solely through the browser collecting data and subsequently making recommendations on your behalf. Likewise, Safari’s privacy settings can be configured to minimize additional location services and tracking.
However, the ultimate protection in this regard revolves around using a different browser for Mac (such as Opera or Firefox). While Safari includes a private mode, it is still not as secure as these aforementioned alternatives.
Minimize Social Media Footprint
So many people share information on social media these days. The end result: your personal data isn’t just being picked up by big companies (including the social media companies themselves) but by complete strangers thanks to your oversharing. Ultimately, Mac users – as well as everybody else – can reduce the likelihood of data theft, identity fraud and privacy concerns by minimizing what they share on social media.
Even merely browsing social media to look at photos and updates can pose select risks to your privacy and data. Many people have overshared multimedia on platforms like Instagram, but don’t want to lose these precious memories. The guide from Setapp provides useful information on how to download Instagram photos, so you can archive all old content while removing it from the public eye. should prove useful. Setapp also provides a litany of other useful apps for Mac users both related and unrelated to social media.
Use Software to Block Cookies and Tracking
Once you’ve installed a more privacy-friendly browser – or at minimum, configured Safari to reduce these concerns – you’ll likely want to take advantage of add-ons and extensions. Notably, there are add-ons that help reduce the instance of potential data theft and misuse by blocking cookies and tracking while using the internet.
There is a litany of options available to reduce or outright eliminate privacy concerns while browsing. Some require extensive customization, while others offer a one-size-fits-all approach that drastically reduces the likelihood of ads, cookies, and trackers being able to harvest personal information.
Consider Your Search Engine Use
Some search engines are notorious violators of personal privacy. Others do not collect personal data about yourself and/or your browsing habits. When protecting yourself on a Mac device, sometimes opting to abandon the default Mac/Safari search settings in lieu of a better option is worthwhile.
Instead of using common services such as Google and Bing, consider lesser-known alternatives that respect personal privacy. Some good examples include DuckDuckGo and StartPage (the latter of which provides you with identical Google search results while hiding your personal information).
Scrutinize Questionable Apps
The longer your Mac device and/or operating system have been in use, the more likely it is that you have programs and apps installed that are no longer needed. Even in some cases where they may have been uninstalled, lingering elements may remain. Because of this, it is crucial that you take a closer look at what is currently installed on any and all of your Mac devices.
Whether it be a program or app that you haven’t used in ages or something that was indirectly downloaded by virtue of installing another app, anything that looks questionable should be removed. Of course, always make sure that a seemingly unknown app isn’t a vital process for your operating system before removing it. When in doubt, consider software that removes junk Mac apps and files from your computer.
Invest in a VPN Service
Last but not least, the best way to ensure no personal and/or device data is being correlated with you via random websites is to use a VPN service. VPN (Virtual Private Network) services can encrypt all data coming from a Mac device, helping to dramatically reduce your overall digital presence. VPNs work by obscuring your true IP address, ensuring that websites cannot tell where you are, or link browsing habits to your specific computer. While there is no 100% guaranteed method for ensuring total privacy and anonymity online, taking a few simple actions to reduce the chance of data theft and privacy invasion is simple. By choosing different search engines and browsers, removing unnecessary apps, blocking cookies and engaging in other comparably simple behaviors, your Mac device(s) and data can be secured above and beyond the standards that most internet users currently enjoy.
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