Most of us are aware that when you create an account with a new website, your information is being stored and potentially replicated in a number of databases. What happens to your data depends on the service that you are subscribing to. Some service providers work hard to protect you and some straight up sell your information for money.
The point is that protection is on you.
Here are some ideas.
You've heard the usual be aware of cookies, malicious websites, viruses, sketchy downloads , etc. While not trying to hack you, Browser vendors have first dibs on your data. It important to think about who those vendors are and what they care about.
Apple Safari privacy statement — https://www.apple.com/legal/privacy/
Microsoft Internet Explorer privacy statement — http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/internet-explorer/ie11-preview-privacy-statement#ie=ie-11
Google Chrome privacy statement — https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/privacy/index.html
Mozilla Firefox privacy statement — https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/privacy/firefox/
Opera privacy statement — http://www.opera.com/privacy
Personally, I use Firefox. Call me paranoid, but a corporation with a browser is suspect. Mozilla is a nonprofit that, at least, appears to care about protecting personal information. Example? For their sync service, they don't ask for your name and your info is encrypted such that they can't read it.
There is no reason to give a service your real name unless it's legally binding like a financial institution or something. Use an alias. Limit the amount of information you’re giving to your comfort level.
Passwords will only get easier to crack as computing power grows. Where possible, use 2 factor authentication. This will send you text to confirm that it is you trying to login to your account. I have had attacks on my accounts that have been thwarted thanks to 2 factor.
###Don’t Track On Me
Most browsers come with a setting to tell sites not to track you. While its up to the particular site to respect this or not, its worth turning on.
The difference between http and https is night and day. If you are sending or receiving data over HTTP, some can read it. If you are sending or receiving over https, no one can read it. I recommend the EFF’s browser plugin called “HTTPS Everywhere," https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere.
We all love it, but we tend to be over exposed. Many services support private accounts that require approval for friend requests. I recommend that. Another good practice is limiting the scope of who can see your messages. Public message that you created may contain sensitive information about you that anyone with a connection can find.
Browsers do have geo tracking capabilities. This typically has to be approved by the user from a requesting service. Be careful.
###I’ve got nothing to hide! I’d like to think about privacy as not what you're hiding, but what you're keeping, namely, your identity.