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Keeping Santa’s Secrets Safe in a Digital World

by Suzanne Kantra on December 05, 2013

When I was little, my sister and I used to sneak into my parents’ room and rummage through their closets in hopes of finding clues as to what we’d be getting for Christmas. Today, with online gift buying becoming the norm, it’s not just closets that can leave clues. Digital breadcrumbs can give you away to the tech-savvy kid.

Snooping kids can see what stores you’ve visited online and what products you’ve searched for. And, if you’ve made a purchase, your receipts and tracking notifications will be sitting in your email. So how do you keep all this information from prying eyes? Follow these simple steps to keep your gifts a surprise.

Keep your browsing private

Hiding your browsing activity is the first step to keeping kids from finding out what will be hidden in their gift boxes.

Delete your browsing history

If you’ve already started shopping, you’ll want to delete your browsing history so your kids won’t know what you’ve been looking at.
Chrome – Click on the trip lines in the far upper right of your screen, then “Settings” then “Show advanced settings.” Under Privacy, click on “Clear browsing history.”

  • Firefox – Click on "Firefox" then “History” then “Clear recent history.”
  • Internet Explorer –Click on the tools cog in the far upper right of your screen, then “Safety” and “Delete browsing history.”
  • Safari – Click on "Safari", then “Private Browsing.”

Delete your search history

The items you’ve been searching for can giveaway your gifting intentions. So delete telltale terms, if your search provider allows, or clear your entire search history.

  • Google –
  • Bing –

Use a private browsing window

Once you’ve deleted your browsing history and search history, you can avoid further tracking by using a private browsing window for your shopping. In a private browser window, your search history won’t be captured. Private browser windows also delete cookies and temporary Internet files after you close the window so others with access to your computer won't be able to see what sites you visited.

  • Chrome – Click on the trip lines in the far upper right of your screen, then “New Incognito Window.”
  • Firefox – Click on "Firefox" then “New Private Window.”
  • Internet Explorer –Click on the tools cog in the far upper right of your screen, then “Safety” and “InPrivate Browsing.”
  • Safari – Click on "Safari", then “Private Browsing.”

Keep your order and delivery notifications private

Once you’ve purchased a gift, the next security hole is your email.

Lock your computer

If you use a computer at home, make sure you log out of your computer when you’re finished using it. And, set your computer to sleep after a few minutes of inactivity and require your password to come out of sleep so kids can’t check out what you’ve been doing when you step away.

  • On Windows PCs, you’ll find this under “Control Panel” then “Appearance and Personalization” and then in the “Personalization” section you’ll find “Change screen saver.”
  • On Macs, go to “System Preferences” then “Security and Privacy” and you’ll find it under the “General” tab.

Lock your phone

There are many reasons why you should keep your phone locked. Add foiling gift spies to the list. Choose from PIN code, a password or a pattern, among other options, and then set your phone to lock after you turn off the display and require your passcode to unlock.

Turn off shipping notifications

If you use Google on your iOS or Android device, you may have opted-in to Google Now. One of the notifications you receive through Google Now is package notifications, which often includes the name of item or items in the order.

Usually knowing a package has shipped is a good thing, but not if your child sees the notice pop up on your phone. You can easily turn off package tracking notifications for the holidays by tapping the “i” button in the top right corner and then selecting “change settings.”

[girl with christmas presents image via Shutterstock]


Computers and Software, Family and Parenting, Kids, Tips & How-Tos, Privacy

Discussion loading


From Ron Ablang on December 07, 2013 :: 9:39 am

I believe the Tor Browser allows private surfing w/ no trail.



From Josh Kirschner on December 07, 2013 :: 6:47 pm

The Tor browser does allow private browsing, but it’s essentially the same as using Firefox’s Private Window function, as far as local privacy goes. And the downside of Tor is that you’ll get slower downloads and weird search results (i.e., because you could be hitting a site from a server based anywhere in the world, you may end up getting tailored search results or product recommendations based on Slovenia, rather than the US.).


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