VPN services are a great way to start protecting yourself online. They encrypt all of your data, tunnels it through proxies, and hides your IP address and location. However, if you are not careful, you can still get easily tracked by search engines and social media accounts, even with your VPN active. Here are some of those pitfalls you should know about.
If you are logged into your Google account while connected to a VPN, Google will still be able to keep a record of all of your searches, and be able to directly link them to you. This applies to Facebook, Twitter, and any other account you might be logged into. Be aware that VPN services, while they do encrypt traffic and prevent eavesdropping, do not anonymize you if you are logged in. This is especially true for smartphones, where you are always logged into at least 1 account (Apple or Google). If you want to protect your online searches, make sure you’re logged out of your accounts.
Social media and search engine companies drop tracking cookies on your devices all the time. Those cookies identify who you are, so that the next time you go on their site (or even a website that uses their services, such as Google Analytics on 3rd party sites), they can associate your previous activity with current activity, and create a distinct profile of you. Even if you log out of your accounts, there are still identifying cookies lingering on your device. So before you enable your VPN service, you need to clear all of your cookies completely.
Be aware that even though VPN services encrypt all traffic between your computer and the VPN servers, if the original connection is not secure (such as HTTP connection) then the request can be intercepted after leaving the VPN servers. Always ensure you're using applications that have built in security.
Being aware of these pitfalls is a great way to start protecting yourself online from the constant spyware of the internet.