How To Protect Your Metadata
Every time you use the internet, you leave behind a trail of digital footprints in your Metadata. Metadata can reveal much more information about your online activities than you might like to share. It is the perfect surveillance which is why law enforcement and security agencies around the world have started collecting the metadata from smartphone and computer devices. So how can you maintain your online privacy?
In this OneHowTo article, we will show you some of the best smartphone applications and computer programs that best protect your metadata.
What is Metadata?
Metadata is best described as a set of data that describes and gives information about other data. Basically it is data that, if analysed, can reveal a lot about you. For example, Metadata on your phone can reveal:
- The time and date of your SMS messages
- The phone numbers of people you called or SMS messaged
- The length of your calls
- Your location (this is tracked by locating the nearest cell tower when you last sent or received and SMS or phone call)
Metadata also includes your internet activity such as:
- When you send emails and who you send them to
- When you connect to the internet and for how long
- Your IP address
- How much you upload and download
- Your location and geographical data
How To Keep Metadata Private
For Calls: Use Skype
Using Skype to call or video chat will protect the privacy of your conversation because all Skype communications are encrypted and their servers are located in Estonia, where data retention is not imposed.
However, your metadata will record the IP addresses of the parties to the conversation. So while what you say in the conversation will remain private, your metadata will still show when you made the Skype call and with which IP address.
For Messaging: Use Wickr
Nicknamed the 'Snapchat for Grown-ups', Wickr is an instant messaging application that encrypts your messages and ensures the content of the messages will expire. Just like Snapchat, Wickr allows you to choose how long the recipient can view your message before it expires. Your messages can also include photos, videos and file attachments.
For Computers: Use a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is described as a secure tunnel between two devices. It creates a private channel between your computer and the websites and online applications you access.
The only metadata that can be collected from VPN users is that the recipient's data came from a VPN server.
For Emailing: Use PGP (Pretty Good Privacy)
PGP is a computer program that, when downloaded, encrypts the emails that you send and decrypts the emails you receive. Only the sender can encode the message and only the recipient can decode it. While you do have to pay to download the program, it may be worth the investment if you are handling sensitive information.
These applications and programs will help get you started in ensuring your metadata stays private.
If you found this article useful, you may also like to read our guide on How to Buy Online Safely - your guide to not getting ripped off!
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