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"Fake It!": How to protect your privacy online

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It should surprise no one that companies relentlessly compile details of your personal life to make you a better target to advertisers. One in three Facebook apps knows your birthday. Almost two thirds of Americans trust Facebook “only a little” or not at all. A thoughtless joke posted to your Twitter account can get you detained at the airport.

So how do you protect your privacy without giving up being online? According to journalists Steffan Heuer and Pernille Tranberg, you start by not being completely honest when the Internet asks you for your personal info.

That’s the idea behind Fake It!: A Digital Guide to Self-Defense, their new book about achieving a sensible level of privacy in today’s world. Its logic goes like this: The more comprehensive and accurate a profile companies like Facebook can make of you, the more you’re worth to them. But that means less and less privacy for you, so the best way to deal with sites that force you to tell them information is to feed them disinformation.

Actively protecting yourself against being tracked online is a necessity, Heuer told the Daily Dot. “Otherwise we're all the prey caught between outdated laws and fast-moving tech businesses.”

A few easy tips: Maintain a fake birthday that you use for all accounts. Don’t ever update your status to tell people you’re going on vacation—someone with loose morals could realize that’s the perfect time to rob you. And take care what you say about your job, especially on sites where you use your real name—some bosses will stalk you, and take it personally.

Some companies, like Google, are remarkably open about which of your information they track. Anyone with a Google account (and that means everyone, right?) can simply go to their Dashboard to see unnerving stats like who you contact most, what kind of smartphone you have associated with your account, and your phone history if you use Google Voice.

Eventually, Fake It! argues, you should think about using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to hide your IP address from snooping websites. But you don’t need to take such advanced steps to start being more cautious online.

“Not enough people think before they post. It sounds very simple, but what you say will be mined, stored, and recombined in ways you cannot imagine,” Heuer said.

Photo via Imgur