Whatever we do online these days there always seems to be someone looking to make money from it. The usual way of doing this is by gathering data about us and then offering access to that data to marketers. This goes far beyond websites just logging your IP and what you do on their website and involves a number of sophisticated techniques.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps that Mac users can take to enhance their anonymity and privacy.
Private Browsing in Safari
Private browsing won’t disguise your IP address (although we will come to that shortly) but it will prevent Safari from storing any information about your session locally. It will also disable the automatic sharing with other devices using the same Apple account.
Private browsing will also isolate each tab that you open in your session. This prevents websites from gleaning any information about other websites that you are visiting at the same time. Any information that you enter into text fields will be ignored for the purposes of auto-filling in the future. Also, you won’t see any files you download in your download history, although they download to your Mac as normal.
Use a Proxy Service
A proxy is a tried and tested means of disguising your IP address. A proxy server acts as a buffer between your device and the internet. Usually, when you connect to a website, your device will look up the IP address of the server where the website is stored and connect directly to it. With a proxy set up, your device will connect to the proxy server instead and then tell that sever what it wants to do online.
The proxy server will then pass the request on to the relevant internet server. The internet server, for its part, sees the proxy server just like any other device that might connect to it. As a result, it sends a response to the request as normal. The proxy server then passes this response back to the user.
This entire process occurs so quickly that you won’t notice any difference in terms of the time it takes to load things.
Setting up a proxy on a Mac is really simple. However, before you can set it up you will need to invest in a subscription to a proxy service like smartproxy.com. Never use a free proxy service as they can’t be trusted. Running a legitimate proxy service costs money. If you aren’t paying to connect, the provider is likely making their money from your data.
Once you have registered for a subscription, your proxy provider will give you the credentials you need to set up the connection manually. Go to your System Preferences and then to the Network section. Select the network that you want to manage, then click on Advanced and Proxies.
You can then either enter the settings manually or use a PAC file if your provider has given you one. The PAC file contains all the information your computer needs to establish a connection with the proxy server and allows you to connect to the network automatically. If you are connecting this way, select Automatic Proxy Configuration and then copy and paste the link to the PAC file into the URL bar.
If you need to set it up manually, then you need to select a proxy server and enter the information that you have been given manually. If your proxy is password protected, make sure to check the box that says “Proxy server requires password” and enter the relevant username and password.
Disable Location Services
Location services are useful for some things, but they are a nightmare from a privacy perspective. There’s no way of getting around it – as long as you have this option enabled, your privacy is at risk. You can toggle it on and off easily enough; you’ll find the option in the Security and Privacy settings menu.
You can control what applications, if any, are able to use your location service. This means that you can leave it enabled for the Find My Mac function (we recommend you do) and disable it elsewhere.
Check Your Onboard Privacy Settings
Within your system preferences is a Security & Privacy menu. If you want to get on top of your privacy, go through this menu and investigate each option. Google any that you don’t recognize.
Au Revoir Siri
Siri and privacy go together like oil and water. There is already a lot of noise regarding Apple’s use of third-party contractors to manually review voice recordings captured by Siri, but this is only one aspect of a far-reaching problem. It’s not Apple’s fault – it’s inherent in the tech. And we aren’t saying Siri is bad, there’s just a big trade-off with your privacy if you use it.
These are just some of the things that you can do to improve your privacy when using a Mac. Of course, all of this is no good if you keep handing out all your personal data to social media companies for them to sell. But that’s another discussion.
image credit: Stay Anonymous via GillianVann/shutterstock