by Peter Trinh
What a strange time to be in! Lately it has become so much more prevalent to attend ZOOM online meetings; be on social media; ordering deliveries online; and to stream more podcasts and videos. It seems that in many ways, things have changed for the worse in many areas of our lives, with the exception of technology and the internet.
While this impression holds a lot of truth; it has not changed a fundamental proposal I made at the start of this “Privacy” series. That is, privacy is now more important than ever; simply because it allows you to express and portray yourself on your own terms.
With this increased prevalence to be online, it is important to know just how little privacy is regarded on technologically current devices, operating systems, and software.
Many in the technology industry are so hungry for data on the people that use their technologies that it has become an industry unto its own, known on the inside, as “Big Data”. Many corporate entities whose free services many of us rely on have business models that depend on that data.
For example, all of us who use G-Mail; Outlook Online/Hotmail; AOL-mail; and Yahoo! Mail free email services regularly have their e-mail scanned by clusters of large computers that glean personal habits, contacts, e-mail addresses from all those emails, and base their advertising across the entire internet browsing experience.
So, how do we take charge and put this on our terms? Everything starts with knowing and becoming aware of how our current events benefit the technology industry. Here are a few expanded suggestions of different steps at different levels you can act upon today:
Tweak your operating system’s settings to better respect your privacy. Apple’s Mac OS X has made this easier with https://mashable.com/article/apple-macos-privacy-settings/ and https://spreadprivacy.com/mac-privacy-tips/. Windows users can use O&O ShutUp10; Blackbird; and the Windows 10 Debloater tools.
- Tweak your browser such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome with settings tweaks; and add-ons / extensions. You can follow guides for this at https://restoreprivacy.com/firefox-privacy/ and http://login.masteruser_auto0m46hju.fastmail.com.user.fm/articles/set-up-google-chrome-for-privacy/?fbclid=IwAR1Lzcped92avzI_e0w5-0zSZmb6FYx1AL_FMXvbA_UrrEUqbFeW5qQdoL8
- Change which “onramp” you use to get on the internet. This is otherwise known as “DNS providers”. This helps you bypass the surveilance all internet providers do to help monetize their business model. Instructions are at https://www.quad9.net/#Setup_Quad9
- Switch online services and software you use to alternatives that are friendlier to your privacy. You can check out that list at https://switching.software/
- Stop using your web browser to save your passwords and start using a password manager such as Password Safe located at https://pwsafe.org/
- Go on an online presence diet by auditing what online accounts you have and cancelling all the ones you do not use. Change the passwords with the ones you have. You can start with checking for any compromises of your account at https://haveibeenpwned.com/
- Consider using good 2-Factor Authentication using a security key such as a Yubikey, over at https://www.yubico.com/
- Consider using an internet filtering device. Think of it as something similar to an in-line water filter, except for the internet. This is not the same as the children filter. What you filter out is the malware, advertisements, tracking, and phoning home performed by many parties out there now. One such internet filter project is known as the Pi-Hole, which bills itself as the black hole for advertisements. You can find out more at https://pi-hole.net/
- Curate your social media presence. For example, spend a couple of hours reviewing your Facebook settings, such as people and pages you follow; advertising interests; privacy settings; and pruning your friends list. This will reset the “echo-chamber” and filtering attempts of Facebook.
- Use a different search engine that does not pigeonhole you such as DuckDuckGo, Mojeek, Gigablast, and Qwant.
To summarize, in the New Normal, it is important as ever to be sovereign with your online privacy. There are simple and immediately practical measures to accomplish this.
If you would like to know more or need some help, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.