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Internet Privacy - Do You Care?

knobby

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Following on from a couple of comments in this thread I thought I'd start a new thread discussing Internet privacy, or lack of it!

I went onto The Guardian website recently to read an article, and like every other website it asks you to accept cookies or "learn more". So I had a look at their cookie settings, and could not believe how many companies they share your data with! The picture below is the start of the list, but look at where the scroll bar is on the right hand side; there are pages and pages of these companies - it runs into the hundreds.
Screen Shot 2020-08-15 at 18.32.59.png

If you accept their cookies, here's just a little of what they'll do with your data (this is taken from their policy):
"Combining data from offline sources that were initially collected in other contexts."
"Allow processing of a user's data to connect such user across multiple devices."
"Allow processing of a user's precise geographic location data in support of a purpose for which that certain third party has consent."


This isn't only The Guardian website that does this; it's almost every website you visit, and what happens when you just click "Accept Cookies"!

I was on the Screwfix website (for those not from the UK, Screwfix is a tool & hardware company who also have bricks & mortar outlets too) and had a look at their policy regarding sharing data - they were sharing it with 340 (no, I haven't typed that wrong; 340) different companies from all over the world.

Companies like these are building a huge data profile of each of us and probably know more about us than our partners, and worse still is that unlike your partner computers never forget anything!

So next time you visit a website and it asks you to "Accept Cookies" take a few seconds to go into their cookie settings and decline all non-essential cookies.
 

debra

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The situation is generally bad. We have a lot of websites that let you select options for cookies, like personalized ads, social media connections, etc., so you can deselect everything and then save the options. But VERY frequently you have to jump through these hoops again. They make you select options so often that they must be hoping that in the end you will give up and finally click "accept all"...
Fortunately there are many news sites, so I just block the most obnoxious ones and only use the ones that do not ask all too often to confirm your c cookie selections.
So your advice sounds good: decline all non-essential cookies, but the problem with that is that they will keep asking you so frequently (and they still know what your settings were) that maybe at some point in time you will be too quick and hit "accept" and after that they will never ask you again...
 

Glug

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If you're concerned about tracking I'd suggest using the Firefox browser (with uBlock Origin and Ghostery add-ons).
When set to 'never remember history' all cookies etc are deleted when the window is closed:

Or if that isn't secure enough just use Tor, which even hides your IP address.
I've even got Tor installed on my mobile phone (just to prove it works).

Have a look at https://restoreprivacy.com/browser/secure/

Tor: https://www.torproject.org/download/
 

knobby

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Carrying on from my post above leads me to other tracking methods employed by some of the big tech companies. Remember that none of these companies have your best interests at heart and exist to make money from us; there's no such thing as a free lunch!

So let's look at a few things:

1. Free email accounts from gmail, hotmail/outlook, yahoo, etc.
Apart from pumping adverts into your email, they also scan the contents (automatically, not by human intervention) of your email looking for data which they can add to your already burgeoning profile. What keywords are in there, what have you bought, where are you going, what are you doing next. You didn't really think they were giving you a free email address out of the goodness of their hearts, did you?

2. Search engines
Everything you search for with Google is also recorded and added to your profile. Every search, every link you click on. I'm sure the same goes for Bing (Microsoft), Yahoo and plenty of others too.

3. Facebook
Probably the worst company for tracking you, not just on their own (anti)social media site but right across the web. I'm sure you've all heard of their data breaches and analytics scandals. Do you really want to give these people information about you? And do you really believe Zuckerberg when he says that Facebook won't look at what you're doing on Whatsapp? Of course they won't!
 

knobby

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So what can you do to limit all this surveillance:

Browser - as suggested by @Glug above, use Firefox as your web browser with a good ad blocker (I use Ad Block Plus which seems to work quite well). Set your privacy settings to "Strict" which should reject third-party cookies. Tor works well too but can be a little slow.

Search Engine - set your default search engine to Duckduckgo. They promise not to keep any record of your searches. You can set this as default in any web browser you use.

Email - sign up for a free or paid account with Protonmail, or any other service which promise to be secure. You may need to pay for some email accounts, but maybe it's better to pay with a little money rather than your privacy. Better still, register your own domain and get a cheap hosting account which gives you email addresses.

Facebook - I suppose this is a necessary evil nowadays, but if you use Firefox then install the Facebook Container add-on. This puts anything to do with Facebook & Messenger in it's own special tab which is isolated from the rest of your web browsing and history. Alternatively you could sign up for MeWe, a social media site which promises never to sell your data. You may be a little lonely on there at first but you could always spread the word to your friends and family.

Messaging - as an alternative to Whatsapp & Messenger (both owned by Facebook) try using Telegram. Totally secure and has more features than Whatsapp & Messenger.
 

Eddy Yates

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Facebook is NOT a necessary evil. It’s just evil. I went to the school where FB was started. I wouldn’t trust those kids as far as I could throw them. Besides playing fast and loose with your information and allowing Russia to influence elections it’s an addictive time waster.
 

Stephen Hawkins

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I have not visited my Facebook page for years. When I last looked at it, it had taken on a life of its own, with absolutely no input from me.

My Wife does a bit of internet banking, but I have never trusted it. Six or seven years ago she made an online purchase using her credit card. When the statement came in, someone had paid for a holiday using her card details. She got the money back, eventually.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
 
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I think many care about their private life and internet privacy.
Politicians and regulators are increasingly paying attention to what data Big Tech and AI companies are tracking, collecting, analysing and scoring.

The EU data protection regulation is a work in progress since 1995. The GDPR in 2018 is only one of many steps towards more democratic control on data collection.

Some day Big Tech will have to open their AI black boxes and show us how they grade us.

Even my school teachers had to justify the scores on my tests when questioned.

This internet privacy question is political, the private sector vs public and general interest.
 

AndyM

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The trouble with the so called trusted websites and services they offer is how long can the be trusted for? The really big tech companies are watching the small fry, and will gobble them up whenever they want, to ensure they maintain their power and control. That's what happened with the "Friends Reunited" service in the UK - FB bought them, and that was that! Big tech won't allow anyone to tread on their toes.
It's going to take politicians of the highest integrity (if such an animal exists), to change the situation.
 

AndyM

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I have a subscription to a music theory website and they send me update/info emails to my Gmail account regularly. I haven't opened any of the emails for a good while now. The other day Gmail sent me a message telling me I haven't opened any of these emails so would I like to unsubscribe from this website. The cheeky buggers are watching!! They then asked me if I'd like to not receive any more of these reminders, so I naturally clicked yes. Call me paranoid, but I suspect they're still monitoring my emails - they'll just keep quiet about it.
 

knobby

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Google are well known for it:

I found this website very interesting and helpful:
 

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