Digital privacy – how to protect yourself and your data

Technology 05/05/2017

If someone could secretly monitor your computer history, what would they find? Photos of your family? Your bank details?

Information in deleted files can be retrieved years after removal. All computers are vulnerable and, in the wrong hands, this information could easily come back to haunt you.

The same goes for your online activity. When you send an email, run a Google search or write a Facebook post, you lose control of how the data is used. Your message can be read, redirected, and stored permanently by people who do not have (or need) your permission to do so.

The following are a few steps you can take to protect your digital privacy that can go a long way towards securing your private information, giving you peace of mind in the process.

Encrypt emails, messages and files

With an encryption program, no one but you and the person you intend to message can read its contents. This requires that both parties are running the same program. The program scrambles the message, making it unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have the program to decrypt it. Some encryption programs make it impossible to decipher messages.

To keep your emails secure, encrypt sensitive messages from every email address you use. You can also encrypt email chat messages and text messages to ensure content remain private.

Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encrypts and decrypts emails – a free basic version can be found at GNU Privacy Guard.

Alternatively, try the encryption desktop available from Symantec (see This also allows you to encrypt the contents of your computer and safely delete files you want removed.

Encrypt your messages and header details

The email subject line, the recipient, and the date and time it was sent remain intact. This means that your internet service provider and anyone else can see who you are messaging, when you are messaging them, and how often you’re doing it.

Your internet browsing records are also unprotected. Think about that the next time you search for something on Google or another search engine.

To avoid exposure, consider encrypting the data stream between your computer and the internet, making it impossible for an eavesdropper to read email headers or to see your searches. The technology that allows you to do this is called a virtual private network (VPN). Your Internet traffic still passes through your ISP, but it’s encrypted, so no useful information can be seen. If anybody snoops, all they get is a long string of unintelligible gibberish.

Find a non-US webmail provider

Services like Yahoo mail, Gmail and Hotmail are all very convenient, but with the emphasis on security, you can kiss your privacy goodbye using these services. To protect yourself, use a non-US-made service that takes privacy and security seriously, for example, Century Media.

Encrypt your cloud storage

Storing data online, or in the cloud as it is known, is now routine. Like everything else, if you’re dealing with a US company, it is not always private and secure. For example, Dropbox (a cloud service that lets you store files as well as send them to one or more people) is subject to very loose US privacy laws. In the past three years, hackers have stolen 7 million Dropbox passwords. It also seems that private Dropbox files you share can be logged by search engines, so anyone who can find this link can access the files.

One way to protect yourself is to only upload encrypted files to Dropbox. Another is to look for an alternative cloud service.


Encrypting all the data you hold online is a great start to protecting your digital privacy. If you are really serious about privacy, consider deleting social networking profiles. This is easier said than done. Facebook is growing larger, with a vast amount of users. They don’t want you to leave their platform once they have your information and so provide various services for you.