The dark side of transparency

Once you’ve lost your privacy, you realize you’ve lost an extremely valuable thing. - Billy Graham

Transparency is something good. You want to know what happens in the world and want to be informed about your salary. But sometimes, transparency can be bad. Not only that other people know things about yourself you don’t want them to know, but as well you lose control. And without control, you lose even more.

The internet was created as a global free network, where everyone has the same rights and can do what he wants. This internet doesn’t exist anymore. We share more than ever before (30 billion pieces on Facebook each month) and with more people than ever before (the average Facebook user has 130 friends). That is massive. And all this data isn’t your data anymore. Facebook can use your photos in any other way without paying or informing you.


You say: “I’m not on Facebook. Why should I care?” Facebook, Google and many other websites are using cookies. Cookies are little pieces of data which are stored in your computer. Because of cookies, you stay logged in when you close your browser. They give websites the ability to customize theirself only for you. “Hey, but this is cool! I don’t need to remember my password cause of this!”, you might think. Basically true. Although there are some other options websites can realise over cookies. Facebook e.g stores a 2-year lasting cookie on your computer (even without an account) and tracks your chronicle. And every time you click on the nifty like button (or just visit a site with one), Facebook gets your IP. “Is this bad? And what is an IP?”

So. Let’s go into some basic internet theory. IP stands for “Internet Protocol” and is something like the home address of your computer. You can find out your IP here: http://ipaddress.com/.

If you followed the link, you will see that it’s possible to get a rough location, time and some other stuff by only knowing your IP. Facebook saves this data and can create a pretty detailed report about you. They get a movement profile, see which websites you are browsing and know where you live, even if you have no Facebook Account.

At the moment, Facebook does not publish this information. They don’t make it transparent. But they can. And most web users don’t know anything about that (you do now).


Maybe (actually, I hope so) you now want to take action. You want to get your privacy back. Thankfully, there are some great tools out there which give you back your data. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

VPN


The Virtual Private Network (VPN) streams your data through tunnels into other countries and let you hide your IP. There are many different options around, some payed, some free. I would suggest openvpn.net.

Your Browser


Yes, your browser. If you use Chrome, data will automaticly been sent to Google. Instead, use Firefox, which has the same features like Chrome and is Open Source. If you want an extra layer of privacy, use the Tor Browser.

Addons


There are great addons like HTTPS Everywhere, Random Agent Spoofer or Disconnect that allow you to surf safer and more private. Check out the responding pages for more details.

Conclusion


Transparency at the right point is something good. But at false places, too much transparency can hurt. Share your ideas/privacy tools in the comment section. Never stop fighting!