It’s been a while I wanted to write this post and give a piece of advice.
One of the most successful and yet fragile business mobile is the one adopted by companies like big G, FB and Yahoo to name a few.
Few users are aware of the deal: free access and content in charge of personal data to be sold by means of advertising banners. Not only that, given that, as highlighted in one of my previous posts, Facebook has been busted inserting cookies on non-users opening one random page of it (say you are looking for a former class mate on google and end up on his profile).
If you think granting a fair compensation, you should give a glance at their staggering revenues.
While it is easy to know (almost) all that Facebook knows about you (for example, by checking you ad preferences), same for Google, with ADs references and location history to name a few, few answers have been given on how and (why) counterweighting this balance of rights.
Regarding the why, you should probably get more familiar with the recent top-notch hacking technologies, the world of cyber-insurances, the amount of companies and governments being hacked on a daily basis, the amount of ramsonware being asked to hospitals to get their data back and the use of personal information on the dark internet, to name a few.
On the how, I would like to share some inputs from my personal experience.
First off, depending on your browser, you should head to your plugin store and download (as well as fiddle) with some extensions to get a grip on the data being taken from you.
For this purpose, -on a Chrome interface- I would recommend:
- one of the ADBlock series of plugin (either the normal, the Plus or further versions),
- Facebook Disconnect (either the normal version or this one here),
- Ghostery (attached a screenshot of the cookies filtered on this wordpress blog),
- Privacy Badger
- On a similar note, Ugly Email allows you to avoid being tracked when you open someone’s e-mail.
Yet, a final tip I feel like to share and that I haven’t seen much over the internet. Although it may seem obvious, do not share your personal data unless necessary and if you have to, just enter the wrong data.
In fact, unless you are engaging with a public institution, you are not forced to give out your personal data at the counterpart’s will and any such request is (in lots of jurisdictions) unenforceable. You can twist your date of birth, you can use a VPN to un-localise your GPS coordinates and IP address, you can pretend a different nationality and address, same for university and relationship status. Also, do not connect websites and accounts.
While you may not fully acknowledge the risk of cyber crime, you can go figure what strangers, competitors or hackers can do to your family once they know your habits, your offspring, your location and the like for their own fun or even for little rewards.
In the worst hypothesis, by adopting these strategies, you won’t be able to be followed, tracked, targeted and spammed with bespoke offers; in the best hypothesis, you would contribute to weaking a business model and reducing the gap between these multinationals (and their tax agreements/benefits) and the rest of the world.