It was an exciting year for consumer technology. But accompanying the release of new gadgets, software and online tools were the usual headaches associated with life in the digital age.
Here are five tips and tricks to remember:
(5) Download your data.
Thanks in part to social media, blog platforms and image-sharing services, we’re living in the most well-documented age in history. But those statuses, updates and photos won’t mean much if the service you’re using shuts down or — in the recent case of the image site Instagram — drastically changes its terms of service. Fortunately, many of the most popular social media services offer users the option to download their own data.
(4) Acknowledge the annoying.
Pop-up ads are a relic of the adolescent Internet. We have no excuse for accepting them anymore. Get rid of pop-ups for good by downloading NoScript for Firefox or AdBlock for Firefox and Chrome.
(3) Keep your phone secure.
Like anything else you download, smartphone applications can carry plenty of risk. Many apps — especially free ones — allow advertisers to access private user information. Although some of this information, such as GPS location and browser bookmarks, is useful for tailoring ads to users, it’s important to know which permissions you’re granting to every app you run.
(2) Handy products and tools.
Here are ways to keep personal information a little more secure.
First up is OpenDNS. I’ve seen great results with this free service, which is designed to cut down on page-load time and filter out “phishing” sites.
For another layer of security, I also use the free browser plug-in HTTPS Everywhere. The software forces browsers to display information with HTTP Secure, the same encryption technique most companies use when processing online credit-card orders. I also use another free browser extension called Privacyfix, which walks me through my privacy settings on popular social networking sites and helps me learn how I’m being tracked online.
(1) When destruction is necessary.
My favorite reader question of the year asked how to properly dispose of old hard drives and the data they contain. If you want to be really confident you got everything, several recommended blunt-force trauma. Smash it with a hammer. Drill holes straight through to the other side. Dismantle the casing and sand the hard disks one by one.