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What is the best way to protect my privacy when using my Mac?

Assume I am a privacy-sensitive user, with Mountain Lion. What software configuration should I do, to protect my privacy? Is there any software you would recommend to protect my privacy, e.g., when using the web or other applications? Which web browser is best, and what extensions are available to protect privacy while browsing the web?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

What extensions are available to protect privacy while browsing the web?

I'm using Safari and there are a number of useful extensions for security.

  • Google SSL

    This extension makes it so every time you use the search bar, instead of searching www.google.com, your search is redirected to the Google SSL encrypted search site.

  • Do Not Track Plus

    Do Not Track Plus blocks tracking technologies that advertisers and other companies use to track your browsing behavior. Easily see who is tracking you at each website you visit and block any or all of them.

  • Google Disconnect

    Google is notified whenever you visit one of the more than 25 percent of sites on the web that include Google widgets (see http://j.mp/dcdefcon). Google Disconnect blocks traffic from third-party sites to Google servers but still lets you access Google services.

  • TrafficLight

    TrafficLight is taking the security-while-browsing concept where it belongs: in the browser. This extension will add a strong layer of security over your browsing experience without inducing speed penalties or system resource consumption. Part of the processing is done in the cloud with some intelligent small engines that make various checks on pages you're visiting enabling you to have top notch antiphishing and antimalware protection.

You can check out some more security extensions here.

DuckDuckGo

Google is widely known to track and store personal data, so it's not a good search engine for maintaining anonymity and privacy. A good, secure alternative is the DuckDuckGo search engine. Here's a short comparison by AffiliatePrograms:

  • DuckDuckGo strongly believes in privacy. Currently, the company does not record any user information. As you probably know, this is a sticking point with many people when it comes to Google. Company founder Gabriel Weinberg had this to say: “By default, DuckDuckGo does not collect or share personal information. That is our privacy policy in a nutshell.”
  • It is often times described as a “hybrid” search engine thanks to results that are pulled from multiple sources including: Yahoo Search, Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia, and its own crawler.

Incognito

Incognito is Safari web extension focused on Security. Here's a description from their site:

When browsing the web, you are continuously being tracked. Not only by the websites you are visiting, but also by major companies that embed their 'content' into other websites through ads and analytics. As a result, companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook have an almost complete picture of your online activity.

Incognito protects your privacy by blocking Google Adsense and Google Analytics on non-Google pages. In addition, it allows you to optionally block Facebook and Twitter content on third-party websites as well as embedded YouTube movies outside of the YouTube website.

Hope this helps!

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Uh, I think google is fairly open about the fact they track users activities. Check out this article where they're now talking about sharing data amongst their various different services. online.wsj.com/article/… –  InfluenceJamie Aug 5 '12 at 1:30
    
Thanks. I fixed my answer. –  qegal Aug 5 '12 at 1:35

If you use Safari, go to Safari's Preferences, and under the Privacy tab, check "Ask websites not to track me". (This may not help much, but it can't hurt.) Also, make sure the "Block cookies" setting is set to "From third parties and advertisers" (this is the default).

If you use Safari, install the AdBlock extension. Under its set of options, click on the Filter Lists tab, and enable the EasyPrivacy list.

Under System Preferences, Security & Privacy, in the Privacy tab, under Diagnostics and Usage, make sure that "Send diagnostic & usage data tto Apple" is unchecked. (This is the default.)

Cut out a little piece from a sticky note and cover over the camera with it. This way you can uncover the webcam when you want to use it, while ensuring it is not used when you don't. (Just don't get the sticky, gluey part of the sticky-note on the camera lens: you want that to be beside or above the lens.) Yes, there's a little LED that comes on whenever the camera is active, but this way you don't have to worry about failing to notice the LED.

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If you're really privacy conscious you might consider using browsers like TOR or SRWare Iron.

TOR

TOR is available either as an extension for firefox or as a stand alone browser. It basically reroutes your internet traffic through their computers which are running all over the world in order to hide your traffic.

SRWare Iron

SRWare Iron is based off Chromium (the code base for google chrome) and is like Chrome but without all the reporting back to google. You can download it for OSX here.

Little Snitch

Finally, you may also want to consider Little Snitch. It's not free but it's good. It lets you know about any connections to your computer, incoming or outgoing, and lets you approve or deny the connections. Check out all the features here.

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I'm surprised you call TOR a "browser". AFAIK, from a user perspective, TOR is a SOCKS proxy that handles your normal browser's data stream. Could you please elaborate? –  jstarek Aug 6 '12 at 7:26
    
As you will see in my original answer "TOR is available either as an extension" (I'm referring to it being a browser extension that forwards traffic through a SOCKS proxy) or as a stand alone browser (TOR now offers their own preconfigured browser) –  InfluenceJamie Aug 6 '12 at 9:58

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