You can be proactive about your online privacy by setting strong passwords, using two-factor authentication, and keeping your software updated. Other privacy best practices include deleting any apps you use infrequently and limiting what you share on social media.

A new year brings new opportunities to improve your digital safety. 

If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to take proactive steps to better protect your data, privacy, and identity — and we can help.

Follow our privacy tips to build safer and healthier online habits, starting today.

Why is internet privacy important?

Any time you take an action online — whether it’s to share on social media, send an email, or make an online bank transfer — you leave a trail of information behind. 

That’s why it’s important to know how to protect your internet privacy. By taking proper precautions, you can minimize the collection of your data, and reduce the risk that your personally identifiable information (PII) will wind up exposed. 

Tips to protect your privacy online

The good news is that there are many ways to protect yourself online.

Read on for our eight essential tips for maintaining and strengthening your online privacy:

Set strong passwords

We’ve written about setting strong passwords in the past, and our general advice is still the same: aim for a password that is long, complicated, and totally unique.

Avoid including personal details and common phrases in your passwords, and never use the same password twice. Bonus points if you use a passphrase and sub in symbols and special characters.

This goes for your Wi-Fi password, too. Make sure it’s just as strong as the passwords you use for your financial accounts or social media profiles. If you need to change your at-home Wi-Fi password, check your router's settings and follow the same password safety tips shared above.

If it’s getting difficult to remember all of your passwords, consider using a password manager to help with the heavy lifting. 

If you prefer to keep a physical list of all of your passwords, make sure you keep it in a safe place away from your computer. 

Use two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, involves signing in with both a password and an additional verification method. This provides an extra layer of security, making it more difficult for scammers to access your information.

If you haven’t already, consider enabling 2FA on any important accounts. 

You’re probably familiar with the most common type of 2FA, which involves entering both your password and a unique code sent to your smartphone or email address. 

While this is a great first step, SMS messages can be easily intercepted. That’s why many security experts recommend using an encrypted app, such as Google Authenticator, to generate two-step verification codes. 

Another dependable method of verification involves tapping a piece of hardware — known as a security key — against your device as the second factor.

Update your phone and computer software

When your device pings you about software updates, don’t ignore those pop-ups. Instead, install them as soon as possible.

Software updates are how developers push out fixes or patches for known security flaws. Hackers also keep track of security flaws and may take advantage if they spot any vulnerabilities, so staying up to date is an important part of online protection.

In addition, consider installing antivirus software to help protect against emerging threats like malware, ransomware, and more. 

Delete unused apps and review privacy permissions for the rest

Sadly, when you download an app, you may be agreeing to share more than you realize. In the name of optimizing the user experience, app developers, as well as third-party services, may be granted access to your calendar, contacts, browsing history, and other bits of your data — often without your explicit permission. 

This type of exposure can erode your privacy over time. Whenever an app, site, or advertiser who is storing your data is breached, it becomes more likely that a fraudster will be able to cobble together enough details to convincingly pose as you, which can lead to identity theft. 

That’s why when it comes to apps, it pays to be a minimalist. If you have apps on your phone that you use infrequently, consider deleting them and using the browser page instead. 

Some apps are unavoidable, though. If you want to adjust your privacy settings with a particular application, visit your account page to see the choices that are available. Or, search online for “privacy settings” and the app’s name to look for additional guidance. For example, Consumer Reports offers helpful guides for managing privacy on several popular sites, including Google, Facebook, and Instagram.

Be smart about what you share online

Another helpful tip to protect your online privacy? Avoid oversharing on social media. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently reported that social media scams led to about $770 million in losses in 2021. 

Know that on social media, criminals may: 

  • Pose as an online friend or hack into an account of someone you know

  • Follow your feed to gather details for a highly targeted attack

Stay alert to phishing scams

Email and SMS phishing are also still popular tactics for scammers, so stay vigilant for the hallmarks of phishing. Think: blurry images, typos, and urgent calls to action.

Don’t be afraid to hang up on robocalls, and avoid clicking on any links or opening email attachments from anyone you don’t know personally.

Be an advocate for internet privacy laws and best practices

In the United States today, there are no federal laws governing how data are gathered, stored, and shared. If privacy is something you’re passionate about, you can write to your representatives to advocate for fair internet privacy laws. 

In addition, consider how you can use your voice to spark a small change in your community — like, say, your school district’s approach to social media.

Use our identity protection service

With so much of our lives happening online, knowing how to protect your internet privacy can feel overwhelming. 

That’s why we provide free online resources — like our Content Hub, Digital Safety Center for Families, and Elder Fraud Center — packed with information to guide you. 

If you’re an Allstate Identity Protection member, you have additional resources at your fingertips, including 24/7 access to our identity specialists, who can step in and help if fraud should occur.

Even if the worst happens, we’ve got your back — and that’s a promise we’ll keep year-round.