These days, online privacy is a big deal. Everyone's worried about being hacked, spied on, companies following their every move, exes trying to ruin their reputation, and making mistakes that they can’t fix. Often, our privacy gets violated because no one warned us about what to look out for, or who not to trust. You wouldn’t give your ID to a random dude on the street—why give it to Facebook?

One of the biggest problems we women face is that most websites and apps are not designed to safeguard us. We’re targets. Social media sites are a privacy minefield unless you know how to protect yourself, and not just from other users, but also from the company running the website itself. On top of all this, many online services and mobile apps take more of your private information than they need, and they do a really bad job of keeping it safe.

The answer isn’t to stop sharing—we just need to be smarter about how we share, and who we share with. To that end, here are nine things you can do right now to protect your privacy. 

  • Use different email addresses (which can forward to your real address) for different online accounts, especially dating sites.
  • Tape over your webcam so that no one can use it to spy on you (yes, it can happen).
  • Sign out of your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus profiles. Then do a TMI check to see if you’re publicly sharing anything you don’t mean to, like personal photos or your email address.
  • Adjust the privacy settings on to all of your online accounts to rein in any risky info, such as your workplace location. If you’re not sure how, a quick online search should offer some clear answers.
  • Activate the password lock on your phone, laptop, and tablet so that whenever they sleep or are first turned on, they ask for a password. 
  • Never sign in to your own accounts on someone else’s device.
  • Use a different, complex password for every website or app and track them with a password manager like 1Password, KeePass, or LastPass.
  • When making purchases online, or operating a home business, consider using a PO box for deliveries instead of your home address to minimize the risk of identity theft, stalking, and other dangers.
  • Install at least one anti-tracking plugin or extension on your browser (like AdBlock Plus).

Take the time to lock down your privacy. It’s worth it.

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Violet Blue’s new book The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy (No Starch Press) is available everywhere books are sold.

Illustration by Hannah Warren

This article originally appeared in the October/November print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today

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