In the wake of a growing concern around Internet privacy, many people are worrying about how to protect their own. The truth is that as cybersecurity slowly catches up with the rapid pace and evolution of the Internet, our ability to maintain our privacy online is getting harder every day. Fortunately, you don't have to rely on websites like Google or Facebook; there are many steps you can take to protect your privacy on your end. Here are a few privacy protection steps you shouldn't overlook. (Get some background information on the problem in Don't Look Now, But Online Privacy May Be Gone for Good.)

Beware of Your Browser

Ensure your Internet browsing isn't being snooped is by using a more secure Internet browser or enabling/installing security features on the one you are using. The most well known browsers also may track their users and sell browsing data to big data brokerage firms. Fortunately, most browsers also have a Do Not Track setting that allows you to block this and other kinds of Internet usage tracking, such as via advertisers. There are even several alternative browsers that may provide a more secure browsing experience (albeit, probably with fewer bells and whistles).

Stop Spam

Spam emails are the telemarketing calls of the Internet; you can hate them as much as you want, but they aren't going to go away. Sometimes they come as a result of your Web history, or maybe your email address was on a purchased list. In any case, you should not respond to these emails. Even if you are prompted to unsubscribe by visiting a link, don’t take the bait. The problem with these links is that they often leave you more susceptible to receiving more spam emails and can, at worst, open your computer to malicious spyware. According to 2012 research conducted by Cascade Insights, Hotmail and Gmail provided the best spam filtering, compared to other Web mail services. You can also download additional spam filtering software.

Don't Get Too Social

If there's one place where online privacy gets iffy, it's social networks. After all, the point here is to be yourself and share with your connections. The problem is that social networks may log this information, or hackers may use your personal information to steal your identity. To protect yourself, take advantage of privacy settings in your social networks. Social tools, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, developed a series of functions that prevent people you don’t know from gaining access to your profile. Also, be sure to limit the amount of information you post on these sites, and avoid posting sensitive information, such as your phone number and address. If you are looking to keep your day-to-day affairs private, you might also want to reconsider using apps that share your location. (Learn more in A Little Privacy, Please! Your Rights and Social Media Policies.)

Block Malware

Many security breaches occur as a result of malware, so make sure that you protect your computer with a strong and reputable antivirus software. You need software that will not only protect you from threats that you may encounter on the Web, but also constantly scan your files to ensure there are no corrupt, lurking files in the background. To bolster your security, look into getting anti-malware software as well. These are programs that scan your computer and eradicate files commonly used by hackers to steal sensitive information.

Email With Caution

To ensure your privacy, be selective about your email provider. Hackers can abuse holes in security features to hack email and gain access to personal user information. There are many steps that you can take to strengthen the security of your messages:

  • Use a Secure Email Provider
    If you are wary of security concerns about your email provider, you may elect to use a more secure provider. This is a bit tricky though, as many "secure" email providers are rogue operations, and it's hard to really know if their services are safe.

  • Encrypt Emails
    A great way to make sure that your emails aren’t compromised is to encrypt them. Encryption makes it much more difficult for hackers or other third parties to view your email. There are plenty of encryption tools that can be integrated with commonly used email providers.

  • Use Separate Emails
    One way to ensure that your personal emails stay secure is to use a different email provider for your personal emails. Remember that corporations have full access to emails that are transferred on their server. This means that just about every email exchanged at work is open for your employers to see. Depending on what you send, that might turn out to be a problem for you. Use a personal email, just to be safe.
Maintaining privacy and security online is something everyone can take into their own hands - to some extent. Rather than worrying about what is happening to your privacy, take the time to read user agreements, set security features and add software that will help make your Web experience a little safer.