When it comes to #GoodID, many decisions are made for us through larger systems like national identification schemes, corporate data practices, major trends, and technologies - which is why we fight for better design, accountability, and transparency.
But on an individual level, we can move towards #GoodID every day.
For those starting the #GoodID journey, we've pulled together seven types of tools - from Password Managers to VPNs - that can help us all shift towards a more secure #GoodID.
We know that there are other types of technologies and specific tools that could be on this list. This is a living document and we want you to help us build this resource for newcomers to privacy and security, helping them to move towards #GoodID.
So get in touch with your recommendations for other types of tools and specific examples here!
1. Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
One of the prime go-to options for keeping your data safe online is to set up a virtual private network. VPNs work by redirecting your internet connection through a private server, rather than through your internet service provider.
In practice, this means that your IP address stays hidden, your identity remains anonymous, and your precious data also stays hidden.
When it comes to free VPN services, caution is advised - but there are some reliable options out there. ProtonVPN offers a free tier that provides unlimited data usage. The service promises not to store any information about your connections or browsing activity, and the platform isn’t supported by ads.
But regardless of the quality of your VPN, it’s never going to protect you from all forms of digital tracking. For that, a little something extra is needed.
Virtually every move we make online is tracked. The things we search, links we click, and the data we generate can be used to target us with messages and advertisements. A number of free tools exist to help users prevent third party requests, cookies, and scripts.
uBlock Origin is an open-source browser add-on that allows you to filter and block a variety of trackers, as well as malware and advertisements. The extension works across multiple platforms, boasts millions of users, and has been praised for its efficiency as a privacy tool.
If you’re looking for an extra layer of defense against tracking, then a privacy-focused browser might be for you.
Brave is a web browser that prioritizes privacy by default. They don’t store browsing data, and automatically block ad tracking, as well as phishing and malware. And if you don’t want to move browsers, DuckDuckGo is a privacy-conscious search engine that might work for you.
Ultimately, blockers and browsers all use filters to catch and block cookies, but even the best filters aren’t going to catch everything. If you’re blocking trackers already, but want to know more about how particular websites collect your data, a privacy inspector might be what you need.
4. Privacy Inspectors
Privacy inspectors allow you to manually investigate websites’ privacy performance in real time. Entering a URL into an inspector brings up a list of the trackers and third party cookies used on the site and highlights any additional practices that may concern users, like keystroke tracking or session recording.
One of the best privacy inspectors out there is Blacklight. In the process of building the tool, creators The Markup ran an analysis of 80,000 popular websites on Blacklight. They discovered that over 5,000 were using ‘fingerprinting’ to evade privacy blockers and identify users - proving just how tricky it can be for users to protect their privacy online.
5. Password Managers
Maybe you’re already covered from a privacy perspective, but could still do with making your digital world more secure.
Most people are guilty of using weak passwords or reusing the same passwords across multiple platforms. And it’s understandable why - estimates for the average number of passwords each person requires ranges from 70-190.
Password managers like LastPass are designed to manage your various credentials under one master password. The individual passwords are stored in an encrypted database, so you only need to know the master password in order to access any platform.
This keeps your access credentials safe from malicious actors, but what about protecting your data once you’re inside the platform?
Encryption works by scrambling text into an unreadable cipher. The message can only be read by the sender and the recipient, who both automatically have the encryption key. All of this goes on behind the scenes when you send a message through an encrypted platform.
Using an encrypted messaging tool, like Signal, will help to ensure that your data can’t be intercepted and stolen on its way to the intended recipient. Meanwhile, encrypting your hard drive and cloud storage means that - even if your device is hacked or stolen - your data will still be safe. Many modern devices have encryption systems built in, though VeraCrypt is a good open-source alternative.
But even if you’ve taken every defensive step available, sometimes your data security is out of your hands. Want to know if your data has ever been breached? Read on.
7. Data Breach Alerts
In recent years, a number of major corporations have suffered extensive data breaches and it’s likely that most of those affected don’t even realize it.
Data breach alerts allow you to manually check whether your email has been affected by a data breach and to set up automatic alerts to let you know if your information ever appears in a future breach. Have I Been Pwned and Firefox Monitor both work on most browsers and keep track of breaches as they’re discovered.
And if your details appear in a list of breaches, don’t panic! It’s time to change your passwords, reassess your security settings, and return to the top of this list to see if there’s anything else you can do to tighten up your privacy, security, and user-control online.
So there you have it! A whirlwind tour of free technologies to support basic #GoodID at the individual level.
But this is by no means an exhaustive list - new tools and technologies are emerging all the time.
* Good ID is not affiliated with any of these products or services. Use of the tools listed here is done at the reader’s own risk.