It should come as no surprise to anyone that our individual online and mobile footprints are growing at an exponential pace. We tweet daily, upload photos to Facebook weekly, and revise our LinkedIn profile monthly. Young adults are especially active, with Experian reporting that smartphone owners aged 18 to 24 send an average of 2,022 text messages per month.
But with every tap of the Send button, our privacy is placed at risk of being breached as our online actions are routed, scanned, and stored in servers we’ll never see. And due to headline grabbing horror stories about revenge porn, career-ruining leaked conversations, and online fraud, the demand for products that enhance one’s online and mobile privacy is rising. Fortunately, some businesses and developers have taken note and have in turn created apps and tools that place an additional layer to one’s privacy filter.
From self-destructing messaging apps to VPN providers, here are some terrific tools that will help protect your online and mobile profile.
Disposable phone numbers
Burner provides users with temporary, disposable numbers for voice and SMS communication. The numbers are confidential and reveal no private information about its owner/user. Throwaway numbers can be used for a day, a week, a month, or longer and, once the number is no longer needed, the user can simply discarded, or “burn” it.
“Think of this like a fake mustache. For your cell phone,” says UrbanDaddy.
Burner is a favorite among Craigslist buyers and sellers, private investigators, anonymous food critics and even a pair of Good Samaritans who wanted to reunite a lost four-legged companion with its owner while keeping their personal information private.
Burner is free to download, doesn’t require a contract, and provides your first disposable number on the house. After that, users can buy credits to apply to various “plans.” $1.99 will get you three credits, which is good for two weeks usage of a number, 20 phone calls, or 60 text messages – whichever comes first.
Self-destructing text messages
“This message will self-destruct,” was a familiar warning that came with each of Inspector Gadget’s mission memos. Unfortunately for the Inspector, the self-destructing paper message would always nearly wipe him out as well.
Today, in the digital age, however, Inspector Gadget would be out of harm’s way thanks Wickr. Wickr is a messaging app that leaves no trace behind. Messages, photos, and videos transmitted are automatically destroyed within a set time limit (up to 24 hours), as chosen by the sender. Additionally, messages are secured to military-grade encryption standards. Instead of giving the power of your messages’ fate to the recipient or the servers in between, you – the sender – regain control over your text messaging thanks to Wickr.
Wickr is free to download and use.
Virtual private network
Founded by a former Vice President at Virgin Mobile, SurfEasy is a Toronto-based company that develops online privacy tools including a private browser and SurfEasy VPN. SurfEasy VPN offers a number of security enhancement feautres including:
- Wi-Fi hotspot protection
- Access to blocked websites and content
- Security from hackers and snoops
- Anonymous web surfing.
All Internet traffic on your smartphone, tablet, and computer is encrypted to bank-grade encryption standards, and your IP address is shielded so that your online identity is protected.
A free SurfEasy VPN start account offers 500mb per month of protection shared between up to five devices. Premium accounts start at $2.99 per month and offer unlimited data protection.