Monday, 29 October 2012
Improve your Internet privacy
My mates at EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) have published a very useful article on how to reduce online tracking. This is actually one of our biggest problems, as online users, so paying attention is worthwhile.
The problem we tend to hear of the most, when it comes to Internet and privacy, is maintaining one's anonymity online. The answer there is that nothing online is truly anonymous and that everything you publish on social networks like Facebook is, in effect, public. You might be the most careful person in the world, but your online friends are out of your control.
The other problem, the one that's less talked about, is how each and every one of us is being tracked while using the web. Essentially, most websites you visit plant a cookie on your browser; that cookies collects information from other websites you visit and cross references are made. Even if those sticking these cookies on you do not know who you are, as in name and address, they will know quite a lot about you fairly quickly: what your interests are, where you shop, etc. Things that your mother wouldn't know, or rather - things you'd rather your mother wouldn't know. Want an example? Were the doctor to tell you that you have a tumor, these cooky collectors would be the first to know - because the first thing you'd do once your home from the doctor would be to Google the news.
So, what can we do about it? That article above tells you a thing or two on how to lose the trail. I recommend you read and implement what it says, but do note: it will make your life slightly harder, since you will need to login to some of your regularly used websites each time you restart your browser. Also note some websites have a problem with being forced to a secure connection, the way one of the EFF recommendations stipulates.
P.S. It's also interesting to note EFF provides instructions for Firefox and Chrome browsers only. This is no coincidence: there is value to open source solutions or open source based solutions such as these two above what may be offered by the likes of Microsoft and Apple.
Image by University of Maryland Press Releases, Creative Commons license