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5 Hacks for Avoiding Big Data Surveillance

5 Hacks for Avoiding Big Data Surveillance

Big data is all around us, even if you don’t realize it. Many businesses look at big data as the key ingredient to future success because with more information, they can improve performances and prepare well for new trends and practices. The process of collecting that information, however, has come under fire in recent years. Not only do businesses see value in gathering data on you, but governments do as well. Surveillance has now become a common practice with much of it done through our online activities. With big data analytics, other parties can paint an almost disturbingly accurate picture of who you are. This has lead many to voice their concerns over privacy violations, even to the point where people are looking for ways to avoid big data surveillance altogether. If you’re in the camp that wants your information to remain as private as possible, here are some helpful hacks you can implement to improve your personal privacy.

1. Delete Browser Cookies

Internet browsers can track all of the websites you visit. This information helps to establish an online profile about you, noting your particular tastes and preferences. From this data, businesses can offer deals and advertisements specifically tailored to you. While this may sound like a benefit, the fact remains that third parties are still collecting information on your activities, even if you don’t approve. That’s why deleting your cookies is an easy way to at the least make surveillance more difficult. And make sure you do it several times a day.

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2. Be Careful With Mobile Apps

Our smartphones are used more and more for internet access, and one way we utilize mobile devices is through the apps we download. Unfortunately, many of those apps collect a lot of data, from your contact lists to your pictures to email information. The one point in your favor is the fact that you must authorize this access if you wish to download the app. By paying close attention to what an app asks for, you can avoid those apps that you may feel ask for too much.

3. Use Privacy Enhancing Technologies

While Privacy Enhancing Technologies (or PETs) may sound advanced, they can actually be quite simple. Let’s face it — you can never fully block surveillance, but you can avoid giving the monitors easy access. That’s where PETs come in. PETs can be as simple as a browser plug-in. Some of them work by blocking websites that track your activities. They’ll usually alert you why they’re blocking the site so you can alter your web behavior in the future.

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4. Limit Social Media Use

It seems like many people want to live their lives through social media. While it’s a good way to keep in contact with friends and family while sharing what’s happening in your life, understand that everything you post on social media can be collected and monitored. That means every picture you tag, every Facebook update you write, every Tweet you post, and every event on your calendar can be seen by pretty much anyone. To maintain your privacy, you should limit your use of social media. That doesn’t mean avoiding it completely, only that you should keep personal information that you share to a minimum.

5. Use Virtual Private Networks

Like PETs, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) may sound complicated but some can be used by those who aren’t tech savvy. The most basic ones are even available for free and can be downloaded as browser plug-ins and extensions. VPNs work by acting as an intermediary server between you and the site you’re visiting. So if somebody is monitoring your activity, all they will see is the server and not your computer or device. This protects you from unauthorized monitoring and keeps your identity relatively safe.

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It should be noted once again that fully blocking big data surveillance is not possible, not with the kind of resources governments and private corporations have at their disposal. That doesn’t mean there aren’t measures you can take to keep your data as private as possible. The above simple hacks can go a long way in protecting yourself from unwanted eyes and ears.

Featured photo credit: Com Salud/Flickr via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 15, 2019

7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

Joe’s Goals

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    Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

    Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

    Daytum

      Daytum

      is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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      Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

      Excel or Numbers

        If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

        What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

        Evernote

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          I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

          Evernote is free with a premium version available.

          Access or Bento

            If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

            Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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            You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

            Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

            All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

            Conclusion

            I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

            What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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