How to be Private on Reddit

Attention Redditors: you need to protect your privacy when using Reddit. Here’s how. 

Reddit is one of the most popular forums on the Internet. Heck, they’re one of the most popular websites, period.

But while the various subreddits can be an interesting place to discuss privacy-related topics (and even stuff like Usenet), the site itself has little concern for your privacy. In fact, their entire business model revolves around collecting as much information about you as possible.

In this article, we’re going to cover both why and how to be private on Reddit.

reddit privacy image (sad robot)

Change these settings and use these tips to stay private on Reddit.

Why Reddit Users Need to Protect Their Privacy

So, how exactly is your personal information vulnerable on Reddit? After all, the accounts are mostly “anonymous”, right? Wrong.

There are a few major issues with Reddit’s security:  

Reddit admits that they track…

All of your comments, everything you upvote and downvote, your private messages, any outbound links you click, the works; this allows them to create a profile on you that can include everything from your hobbies, your political beliefs, your relationship status, and more

Reddit is sharing data with government

In March 2016, the site’s admins removed their “warrant canary”, which indicates that they’ve turned over at least some user data to the intelligence agencies, though it’s impossible to know how much and how often

Reddit has suffered major data breaches

In August 2018, Reddit announced a data breach which included usernames and passwords, email addresses, and even private messages stored by the site; now, imagine the detailed profile Reddit’s created on you being connected to your personal email address or otherwise linked to your real identity

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize or eliminate many of the risks described above.

How to Be Private on Reddit: Update Your Settings to Stop Tracking

Back in 2017, Reddit introduced a section under user settings that allows you to opt out of tracking. But there’s a catch. All these tracking options are enabled by default.

Note: Reddit also doesn’t honor the ‘Do Not Track’ setting in your browser. Sigh. 

Here’s how to fully opt out of tracking on Reddit:

1. Navigate to your ‘User settings’ or click here

 2. Select the ‘Privacy & Security' tab and you'll see the options below:
reddit settings privacy screenshot image

Reddit's Privacy & security settings.

3. Scroll down a bit and turn off 'Search engine indexing' and 'Log outbound clicks'
4. Then go back up and select, ‘Personalization’ or go here.  You'll see lots of options (see below). Turn ‘em off. All of them. Then select "save options'
reddit settings personalization screenshot image

Disable (de-select) all of the Personalization options in Reddit's Settings.

5. If you like, you can also opt out of other tracking through these two pages: Digital Advertising Alliance and Network Advertising Institute

You're done! 

Other Tips for Being Private on Reddit

Tweaking the settings above will give you a degree of tracking protection on Reddit, but it won’t even stop them from showing you ads, let alone make you fully secure.

So, here are some other helpful tips for protecting yourself on Reddit:

  • Don’t use your real name or email address when signing up, and don’t share any personally identifiable info (where you work, live, etc.) on the forums or even via private message 
  • Take advantage of Reddit’s easy account sign up process to create “throwaway” accounts, especially when discussing or viewing sensitive info 
  • Use unique, secure passwords on all accounts; a password manager, like Dashlane, makes this much easier 
  • Use ad-blocking and other browser extensions to block ads and further protect against tracking; we’ve outlined some of the best Firefox add-ons for privacy 
  • Use a trusted VPN; a good VPN is always a smart choice for privacy, just keep in mind that it can only protect you so much on Reddit unless you also take the steps above to protect your identity when using Reddit

Reddit Privacy: Final Thoughts

Reddit thrives and plays on its image as an alternative community that is nothing like the Facebooks and Googles of the world. But don’t fully buy into that.

Reddit is just as interested on getting its hands on your personal data as the other big players. Afterall, Reddit also survives on generating revenue by serving ads on its site. The more personalized the ads, the more clicks and the more revenue for them.

Fortunately, Reddit hasn’t yet insisted on verified accounts for its users (such as when account have to be linked to a telephone number). This opens the door to being truly anonymous on Reddit if you take the precautions we’ve outlined above.

Long live free speech!

March 20, 2021

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