How to keep your secrets safe on Amazon, Netflix, other sites
Want to keep your purchase history and viewing preferences secret? Tech columnist Kim Komando shows you how to do it.
When a relationship gets serious, we start to share more of our lives. We borrow each other’s cars. We move in together. Inevitably, we start sharing each other’s technology and even our passwords.
But your device says a lot about you: Your pastimes, your taste in music, your curiosities and the things you shop for. So how do you maintain your privacy online, even with the people who are closest to you?
Here are a few simple tricks to help you keep your secrets under wraps. (Note: Apps and websites do not always work the same across all devices and operating systems. If something isn’t located in the menus precisely as I say, look around for a similar action.)
Amazon tracks not only what you have purchased, but also what you have browsed. If you share an Amazon account, both can pose a major problem especially this time of year.
The good news is that you can easily cover your tracks. To erase your browsing history, from your account settings, look for Personalization. Go to Personalized Content >> View and Manage Your Browsing History. Here, you have a few options. You can remove only certain items or all items as well as turn off browsing history, so you never have this issue again.
Let’s say you want to make it more difficult for someone to find out what you have ordered. Amazon will not completely delete your order history, but you can archive individual orders. Casual snoops will have a harder time seeing what you have purchased. From your account settings, go to Your Orders. Select the item you wish to hide and select Archive order.
You can use the Amazon app as an additional holiday security measure. Suppose you have purchased a pair of shoes for your spouse, you’ve archived the order, and now you’re waiting for the package to arrive. But you’re receiving so many boxes this time of year, how do you know which delivery to open and wrap?
With the Amazon app, you can scan the barcode on the box to immediately find out what’s inside. It works like a charm – unless your spouse has secretly ordered something for you!
Google often auto-completes your search terms based on personal information, such as your location and previous searches. Anyone looking over your shoulder or borrowing your device might be surprised by the guesses Google makes. Google products that collect your information include Chrome, Google Maps, and YouTube.
To delete your search history on Google, you need a Google account. Just log in, go to My Activity, and remove items individually.
Better yet, take control of the data Google saves about you. Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to stop Google from collecting data about you.
Most browsers have a similarly easy way to delete your browsing history, and the controls tend to be in your browser’s preferences. Keep this in mind, especially if you’re researching something a little unusual.
For many of us, Facebook is like a sprawling digital yearbook. Maybe you have a family computer, and you usually forget to log out of Facebook. Other people use the same computer, they stumble into your Facebook account, and they notice your conspicuous search history.
Your significant other may wonder why you’ve become so curious about the person you once invited to the prom, no matter how innocent your interest.
The easiest way to avoid an awkward conversation is to open your Activity Log. Select More >> Search >> Clear Searches. Or you can remove each search item one by one.
Your Facebook Activity Log stores a lot of data about you. Click here for tips to clean it up and prevent things from coming back to haunt you.
We all have our guilty pleasures, especially when it comes to movies. You may have privately viewed Lars Von Trier’s "Nymphomaniac" and thought it was a great work of art-house cinema, but that could be hard to explain to a roomful of people.
If you want to hide past screenings, just go to My Account >> Viewing History. Be advised that items aren’t always deleted immediately; it may take 24 hours for your lists to update on all devices.
Netflix also allows you to create multiple profiles. Many households don’t bother with this unless they have children, but if you want to keep your viewing history private, you can create a personal profile and protect it with a password. Click here to learn how to do this as well as access secret Netflix categories.
Every major web browser including Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera has private, or incognito, browsing settings. Turning this feature on means your browser will ignore cookies including ad-tracking cookies and won't record your browsing history. It's almost like you weren't online. Click here to learn how to enable this simple step to keep your browsing history a secret.
Maintaining privacy is one of my favorite themes. To learn other ways to protect your information, be sure to listen or download my podcasts, or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com or send her an email.