Security : You buy what I tell you to

With the Internet growing everyday, and everything we need and want is available from the net, security is becoming a huge topic of interest.

It is safe to say we do not really understand which part of the information we share on the Internet compromises our security. This is because there are constantly people try to find ways to exploit information they can get. Whether it be to sell you something, or to just straight up take your money, steal your identity or do other malicious acts.

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Sharing your interests, history, favorite color, TV show, your moms name etc would be something normal a few years ago. Today, that same information can be used to help generate possible passwords you might use for an account. Some of that information we don’t eve know we are giving away. But who are the people who use your details the most and how?

Well, as you might have expected(or not), this information is used by advertisers. It is used to target you and sell you things that they believe you have an interest in. But then, how do they get this information you might ask yourself. Well, you give it to someone for free, and that someone sells it to them.

The someone I am talking about are multinational corporations, some you know, others you don’t. One you probably know very well, is our beloved Google

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We use our browsers to access the Internet. And so we believe we can enable features like incognito to protect us…well, in the words of DuckDuckGo

Using Incognito mode to keep you private online is kind of like using a bucket to put out a raging fire

In more details, this is what happens

It may surprise you that ads can still follow you around in “Incognito” and other “private browsing” modes.

That’s because Incognito mode isn’t really private. shocked face emoji

Incognito mode only deletes your local search and browsing history – just the content on your computer. Websites, search engines, internet service providers, and governments can still easily track you across the web

Now you might be asking yourself, what harm can come from people tracking me? Not much really, if you are careful, but it can work against you. We will come back to this later.

What happens with the information these organizations get from you? Well, in the case of Google, you are the product. Why do you think you get so much free stuff from them. Free email, free cloud storage, free search engine, free operating system. That is because you are the product they are selling.

Google is an advertising company at it’s core. So they sell ad space, they sell information to make ads to more appealing by making the right ads appear to the right people. Google trackers are installed in 75% of the top 1 Million sites, those are websites you visit on a regular, constantly getting information about you, what you like, where you want to go, the car you would like to drive. A study from Princeton shows the 75% from Google, then it’s Facebook with 25%, then Twitter at just over 10%. Ever noticed how you were looking at boostedboards and cool cellphones a few minutes ago, then you see ads about that on your Facebook? That is tracking.

The good thing about this sort of tracking is that it is not meant to harm you by hacking you or something like that(which is possible). However, it can work against you.

Retailers are increasingly charging “personalized” or “dynamic” prices based on your online footprint. They manipulate prices, trying to charge you the max they think you’re willing to pay. You could be sitting right next to someone, looking at the same online product, and be charged more just because of a website you visited. – DuckDuckGo

Yes, what you just read above it true. Based on your browsing, you can end up paying more for something someone else is getting cheaper. Probably just because you were on some sites with expensive stuff before going to book your flight ticket or buying something. And so the software figured…mhhh…this one likes things, charge them an extra R150. Then what do you do, still buy that ish.

Now let me be honest. There are pros to this tracking. For example, you can easily find a place or website you were on a year ago because you can access all your Google history and locations now. You can also get discounts on other things you buy, whether it be because it is your first time there, or you frequent the website. However, that also means Google knows all about you, where you were, which route you took, which sites you visit, the creepy stuff you search for. Don’t believe me?

You can check your Google history . There is all sorts of information, like what you searched for on YouTube, Twitter, which apps you used on your phone at what time. You can also take a look at where you have been. So you can literally see exactly where you have been traveling at what time, the routes you took, where you stopped and for how long. Stalker vibes sort of stuff. If you are married, you might want to continue reading to see how to delete all this.

With all of this in mind, it is easy to see how you can also be fed certain type of information. Like, specific news stories. Here is a TED talk about the “filter bubble”. Who knew losing an election to an orange man with small hands can be so easy, well, we learn the hard way.

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The fix. How do we better protect ourselves? There are a few things we can do.

  • We can start by installing something like Privacy Badger which blocks trackers(you still have control)
  • To delete your search history
    • To delete the results you can click on the dots on the top-right hand of the page and select “Delete Activity By..” then, select “All Time” and hit delete.How to delete your Google search history
  • Now to disable ad settings
    • How to Disable Ad Settings:
      1. Navigate to Google’s Ad Settings page.
      2. Scroll down, and toggle “Ads Based on Your Interest” to off.Picture of setting ad interests to off
      3. Then, scroll down more, and click the blue button to “opt-out of signed out ads.” Turn off the toggles on that page too.Picture of setting logged out ad tracking to off
  • You can also remove tracking from other companies
    • Go here to see a list of advertising companies that are tracking you through your browser. You can remove them. Remember, it will be for the browser you are using only.

For more information on what information Google sells and does not sell, you can go to their page.

With all that said, it worth mentioning that your privacy and data are very important, which makes the privacy of your data even more important. This piece was not about hackers or scammers. But do remember that these people do exist and can take your information if you make it easy for them.

Thank you for getting all the way to the bottom. Here is what you should feel like after processing all that information

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