Thwarting Medium’s warrantless surveillance of my web activity

“ Medium doesn’t track you across the Internet.”

Medium Privacy Policy; Effective Date: May 25, 2018

The above is, quite simply, a false statement.

Having recently installed various privacy and blocking devices as extensions to my Opera browser, I was astonished to learn when I first began using one such program called “Disconnect”, which displays all the sites being informed when I visit a given location online, that Medium was being informed on EVERY other site I visited, whether it was a site I was logged into or not, some of which have no log-in capability at all and others which I had always viewed only as a guest and never as a logged-in user.

Thankfully, among Disconnect’s capabilities are multiple forms of access blocking, and with some doing and some trial and error I was finally able to remove Medium’s icons indicating it WAS tracking me across the internet, in direct and flagrant contradiction to its own privacy policies, quoted above.

This process revealed to me, firstly, that it was not enough to merely log out of Medium before viewing another site on the same browser.

Medium’s policies also state:

Medium complies with the “Do Not Track” (“DNT”) standard recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium. For logged-out users browsing with DNT enabled, Medium’s analytics will not receive data about you, but we will do some first-party tracking in order to customize content and provide data to third-party service providers that enable Medium Services to work. When you use Medium while logged-in to your account, we cannot comply with DNT.

Whatever any of that is supposed to mean, I do know (now) what a DNT request is and that I have enabled them, and what “Medium’s analytics will not receive data about you” is at least supposed to mean, and that this part of it is simply not the truth:

Medium continued tracking me across the internet, whether I was logged in to Medium at a given moment, or not.

The magnitude of this discovery was staggering, and repulsive:

I have been a Medium user for maybe two years, and other than an internet brownout or two plus a brief hiatus while I shifted over to a new computer, I have remained, purely for convenience’s sake and in childlike innocent oblivion, logged in to Medium that entire time, any time my system is turned on and online, and that is a lot.

One may argue “caveat emptor”, and that anyone who uses the internet needs to be literate in how it works, and to an extent this is a reasonable view.

There is a plethora, to say the least, of information to take in, on technical, legal, procedural, and customary aspects of being an internet user. Most of which is rather obvious and self-explanatory, while much of it is over most folks’ heads but not really crucial. But in the realm of privacy and security, a colossal topic in itself, I’m not sure anyone can really know everything they need to know in order to protect themselves from unwanted surveillance, profiled targeting and data-mining, much less re-distribution* of any information thus gathered, just to name a few of the countless hazards to everyone who utilizes this instrument.

Nor can I tell you how many times Medium might have altered its policies in all that time, nor would it have ever even occurred to me to learn more about these issues unless it had turned out that an entire nation can be entangled into a controversy about whether its elections had been legitimate ones owing to the potential for a foreign power, with the tech sector’s and its liberal party’s brazen collusion, to interfere with its processes prior to the actual voting, in countless ways.

In my disgust and horror that I had been blindly allowing a pack of tech yuppies and their bot-armies to spy on me online for years, my first instinct was to quit the site outright by deleting my account. But I have invested too much thought and energy and conviction into the things I have written here and the exchanges I have participated in all that time, to make such a rash move as an angry reflex. Not without at least downloading a good part of the volumes of content thus generated onto zip drives or CD-ROMs at the very least. Whatever the copyright implications, this is material I created myself, and the idea of just wiping it all out with a single mouse-click seems a rash move indeed.

Besides, I am just too stubborn and willful a person to allow someone else’s rank and egregious misdeeds and disrespect for my personal integrity to be the motive for erasing years’ worth of work.

At first I did check my Medium settings for any buttons I could push which might help me mitigate this outrage on our hosts’ part. All I could find was the option of “deactivating” the account, a sort of blackout and vanishing act imposed on anyone who might find my contributions worthwhile here, but not one which would result in the elimination of all that content.

So for a brief period of a couple of days or so, I did leave the account deactivated, as I continued to explore the results delivered me by these browser extensions. To my continuing dismay, Medium’s bots continued to track me even after the account was deactivated.

This further insult added to injury on Medium’s part confirmed beyond a doubt that not only was my logging out not enough to stop the espionage, but also that deactivation was not either.

Having neither gained anything by the move nor given myself anything further to lose, I logged back in to Medium and began what is certain to be a persistent campaign to expose Medium’s mendacious duplicity and willful violations of its own stated terms, using Medium itself as the platform to do so. I also contacted Medium itself via email and raised these issues, and have yet to receive anything but a boilerplate bot-text telling me how concerned with and dedicated to whatever they are, etc, etc….

Replying to that flippant non-response, I informed Medium that whether or not I am banned from this site, anything short of their assuring me conclusively and verifiably that they have ceased and desisted from this anti-contractual stalking of me, I will not leave the matter to rest.

So far, several days into this misadventure, Medium has taken no further action resembling anything punitive. My posts continue, apparently, to be seen by that tiny network of fellow users I have cultivated, and some do continue to respond either by clicking “applause” or replying. My stats continue to creep along at the rate of three or four reads per post with ten being historic, as they have done since the numerous “upgrades” imposed here have resulted in low-level users such as myself and my acquaintances seeing their traffic and exposure reduced to almost nothing.

But, unless I make sure to visit Medium last in line during a given browser session, keeping all my newfound blocking devices fully activated the entire time and thereby severely compromising my access to any other site’s contents, then log out of Medium and actually close the browser and re-open it for further usage, Medium’s bots continue stalking me.

And I will continue to learn whatever I can about what this outrageous invasiveness means, as well as what further measures I may take to thwart it. These may include contacting various law-enforcement agencies such as the FTC, FCC and/or FBI, as well as private-sector interests such as the Better Business Bureau and any other venues for writing reviews and critiques of a given business concern, along with commencing the process of seeking legal counsel and/or representation.

I already have taken to finding and blocking and reporting any Medium personnel (each of them parties, whether wittingly or not, to these violations) who have a posting account here, including its owner, whom I blocked and reported moments ago.

I am far from done here, and Medium management itself can end it any time they choose, by giving me the substantive, comprehensive, binding, and verifiable assurance I demand, that THEY ARE NO LONGER SPYING ON ME, and that they never will again. Given that this all began on a basis of my discovering the absolute dishonesty Medium is capable of in non-complying with its own terms of service, short of meeting my demands I would have no basis for believing anything they tell me. So it goes, with liars: they tell you one lie, and there is thereafter no reason to believe anything else they say.

I am neither a powerful nor wealthy nor particularly vindictive person, and I neither chose nor initiated this showdown. That was Medium’s doing entirely, by violating its own rules and brazenly imposing itself on my privacy. But I mean to prevail in it, one lawful way or another.

I don’t see that Medium has left me any option.

*We may share your account information with third parties in some circumstances, including: (1) with your consent; (2) to a service provider or partner who meets our data protection standards; (3) with academic or non-profit researchers, with aggregation, anonymization, or pseudonomization; (4) when we have a good faith belief it is required by law, such as pursuant to a subpoena or other legal process; (5) when we have a good faith belief that doing so will help prevent imminent harm to someone.”
All of this, but especially point five, of course, could mean anything Medium decides they want it to mean….

Erika Sauter Randomly Me Rick Fischer Proudly Unaffiliated Valerie Jarrett internetweek Data Privacy Recruitment Intel Security Future Crimes White House AAPI Hackernoon World Privacy Forum torproject FOX News Yelp Whistleblower Attorneys AEI FreedomWorks Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting Claire Stevens The Suburban Nihilist VPOTUS