The argument here is that “privacy doesn’t have to be the price of progress”.
You’ve probably noticed those shoes you looked at that one time on Superbalist have ended up following you around the Internet, popping up every time a website offers a certain ad space.
Generally, the culprit is Google AdWords, but Facebook’s advertising game is slowly taking over.
Now, as advertisers continue to use our own information against us, let’s see how we can protect ourselves from the sneaky devils, but still encourage moving forward with tech.
Angus Hervey takes a look at how our social habits, some of which you might think completely innocent, play into advertisers’ hands:
Most of us have been willing collaborators in this privacy invasion. We confess our mental health problems on Facebook, tell advertisers how many kids we have, and happily allow weather and traffic apps to know where we are at all times.
That’s not totally unreasonable.
Sure, we’ve given tech companies unlimited access to our data, allowing them to sell those insights and earn money from adverts, but in return we’ve received wonderful services such as email, intercontinental video calls, social media and better weather predictions.
We gave up our privacy, but we also allowed law enforcement officials to solve more crimes and disrupt terrorism, exposed more political corruption, fueled [sic] social movements and helped topple totalitarian regimes.
Again, pretty fair – and, thankfully, we still maintain freedom when it comes to choosing what we want to do digitally, because we have the freedom to use digital tools and services that hide us from prying eyes and obnoxious advertising.
Want in? Great.
Hervey listed nine ways to stop advertisers and other prying eyes from gaining insight into who you are, which, in turn, will assist in blocking out those nasty advertisers:
Protect yourself from advertisers:
You wouldn’t allow advertisers to put up posters in your home, so why let them pollute your online experience? Adblockers keep ads from appearing when you’re online, and they’re great. The best is Adblock Plus.
Stop advertisers from tracking you:
Ghostery is a browser extension that will scan a website as it loads and show you all the the tracking cookies that load with that site. It also gives you the option to turn them off, and prohibit them from following you across the internet.
Change your Facebook settings:
This link will take you to the ads preferences page on Facebook. It will show you what brands Facebook thinks you like, what advertisers you’ve interacted with, and the categories Facebook uses to advertise to you. You can delete all that information. Facebook may still have it all, but it will no longer allow advertisers to use that info to advertise to you.
Get on the VPN action:
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to browse the internet without anyone tracking your IP address. Decent ones aren’t free, but well worth the investment, and you can use them across multiple devices such as your phone or other computers. My favourite is IPVanish, which costs about $60 a year, and you can put it on up to five devices. If you’re a little daunted and want something super easy, then try TunnelBear, which more user friendly.
Has your privacy been compromised?
There’s a great free online service called have i been pwned? which allows you to enter your email address and see whether any accounts have been hacked. It also allows you to set up a notification in case other accounts are ever compromised. If you have been hacked, change your password on that website and then…
Obviously you’re not going to be able to switch all of your email over to a new account overnight — but it’s worth making a start. One good way of doing this is to set up a new address and start using it with your family, partner or a small group of friends… and then go from there. I recommend ProtonMail, an open source service developed by CERN and MIT scientists and protected by Swiss privacy law.
Protect your messages:
At a minimum, you should already be using Whatsapp for all your texting. And if you want to get serious about messaging privacy, use Edward Snowden’s preferred service, Signal. Same idea — start with a small circle of friends and expand outwards.
Password manager for the win:
If you’re not already, you should be using a password manager, a service that generates random passwords for you for each of your online services, and keeps them all in one place. They’re pretty user friendly — your best bet is 1Pass, which will do all the work for you. Yes you have to pay, but the peace of mind you get is well worth it.
Use 2-factor authentic:
If you really want to be secure, you need to enable 2FA on any site that allows it. This adds another step to the login process for popular services like Google, Facebook and Twitter, and it’s the best way of ensuring security. At bare minimum, enable it for all your Google services. It’s easy to do, here’s a simple online guide to using the best one, Google Authenticator
So exciting! Any tips to get rid of those cookies and I’m always in.
Oh, and did you end up buying those shoes? You did, didn’t you…
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