Reading Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother has made me even more paranoid about web privacy than usual, and I was pretty paranoid to begin with. When I tell people that I’m careful online they scoff and say “you?! But your life is almost entirely public!” To which I have to explain my policy, that if I want to hide it’s best to hide in plain sight. To hide a needle I need a haystack; in the absence of a haystack I manufacture one — a non-random, patterned haystack in which I proceed to hide my needle. Sure, they’ll find it eventually, but I’m damned if I don’t make it as hard as I can. The needle they’ll find will be innocuous anyway. The stuff I really, truly want to hide you can be damned sure won’t be found.
This is how your privacy is invaded online: Websites use algorithm’s to profile users. Algorithm’s crunch the data you put out there and create patterns about your behavior online, which they then sell to other companies that want your data, so that they in turn can sell you the stuff they think you want (based on your interest graph). That’s why you see ads for sneakers or suchlike; because you’d been surfing on an ecommerce portal a few days ago and the social network you’re seeing the ad on tracked your behavior ON OTHER SITES, EVEN AFTER YOU HAD LOGGED OUT. Yes. That’s what some of these sites do and that’s the kind of privacy invasion most of us are unaware of; the one’s among us who are aware are rightly paranoid about it and take steps and measures to stop, or, at the least, to lessen the impact of such tracking.
I blamed Chrome for not displaying some sites correctly, and breaking code on other sites. I realize now that the extensions I use, like AdBlock and Do Not Track Me, are probably breaking the code on some of those sites that employ several trackers. I can live with that, trading some badly displayed sites to losing my privacy. If it doesn’t worry you that these companies are tracking your life online, then you’re not one of the people this post is meant for. If you’re worried and want to know more, want to know how to protect yourself online, you know where to contact me.
Here’s where you can grab a copy of Little Brother. It’s licensed under a Creative Commons license and is free to download.