A Weblog of Programming, Philosophy and Random Thoughts.

Anonymity on Internet: Somebody's Stalking You !!

Just think if you had indexed (in simple terms easily accessible) information of everybody in the world about their Name, Age, Phone No, Address,Email ID, etc along with their Interest, Likes, Dislikes etc. What would you have done ?

May be nothing just read and giggle about how weird people can be. But that’s when you are a nice person. But an evil (wo)man can do much more, like sell this information to people who need it and earn money..!! Imagine if you give cell number of your friend to a guy who has a crush on her just for few bucks, what she’ll do to you..!!

But who needs my information, that he/she will pay for it ?

Consider you write software for kids and want to publicize it. But showing ads takes lot of money. So to save a lot of money you can pay a small amount to somebody having this info indexed with them and get Mobile Numbers of all the people having young kids. Text them all about your software. Short and simple, maximum publicity at minimum cost. But who got bugged ?? You !!

Another real life example: Last year I gave a seminar on Android OS in my college. For that I did a lot of research on internet, after that for almost a month ads related to Android (like Android Devs required, Free android apps, etc.) followed me on almost every web page I visited.

Another thing why only single people get ads from dating sites ??

Who are these people who have my information?

Well I won’t point a finger at anybody (Because sadly I don’t have a “proof”). But I can tell they provide you with basic internet services like a platform to share with your friends, meet new people, E-Mail everybody, be connected to everyone, watch videos online, etc. How do they give you so many services for Free ? They are not free, they take your privacy in return of the favor they do to you. And trust me its very profitable deal for them. Sometimes they may be people who make your software, like your Browser, your Operating System, your Media Player etc.

How do they do it ??

Its very easy:

  • The email providers can read your emails.

  • The video-sharing providers can see what you watch.

  • The social can networking sites index your shares, chats, status updates and everything.

  • You visit any webpage/blog and there you see a plugin from a social network. That plugin is never hosted on the website that you are visiting, but its hosted from the servers of the social network which can secretly record that you visited that webpage/blog along with keywords about what it contained. The plugin knows who you are because you didn’t logout and it can still read some magical small signatures of you on your browser called ”Cookies”. This is literally stalking !!

  • When you see a long license agreement before installing a software have you ever read it. The license agreement of a very popular OS says it can send report about all the softwares that you use to people who developed the OS. And it even states that it can disclose your information to others. But they know you won’t read it !!

Otherwise why would an email provider want you to give your address, Phone No., Location, etc. to them..!!

So should I kill my online presence and go back to stone age !!

No !! Not at all. I know you (even I !) can’t live without chatting with friends, sharing pictures from your vacation, searching online for project/seminar etc., watching videos etc. But there are good people also in the world !! Who not only promise you but also prove to you that they will never track you or what you are doing on the internet. They will never possess your personal information. Even if they have your information, they won’t sell it.

Who are these “Good” people ??

Well I didn’t take any names till this time. Because I was criticizing giant people, and I’m just a college going kid.( But I bet you understood who are they ;-) ) But Now is the time to know the good people. So these are the options

  • For Social networking - Diaspora*: Its distributed social networking. It means that its not just one website, its a bunch of websites (called pods) which are connected together but are hosted by completely different people around the world. You can join diaspora through any pod who’s owner you trust that he/she won’t sell your information. Or if you don’t trust anybody, just start your own pod, yes you can do this because its Open Source !! The best part is you can share with your friend even if they are not on the same pod which you are on. You can select your pod here.

  • For Searching - DuckDuckGo : DuckDuckGo provides a nice and very clean interface for searching. Plus it promises not to track you. It doesn’t have an account system where you can login, etc. So it doesn’t possess your information.

  • For software - Use Open Source Software: Always use open source software, there source is available publically and hence they can be trusted. Even if you need to use some proprietary software read the license agreement carefully and click on “I Agree” only if you do.

I know the list is not complete yet ! But give it some time it will be complete some day.. :-)

So What should I do till “that” day comes ??

Its sad but till that you need to be a little careful while surfing the net. Either don’t remain logged in while you browse.

Or if its too irritating for you to log in & log out just use two browsers. One for everything that has account and other for normal searching, watching videos, etc.

While watching videos also, why do you want to be logged in. I mean how many times a day do you upload a video !! Log in only when you need to upload a video.

A very good solution to all the discomfort you feel can be using Tor. Tor is an awesome project to ensure anonymity on web. Plus its Free and Open Source :-D

And if you are software developer, think of making your own software to save the freedom of world.

I guess That is it from my side on this topic. If you feel to add something please comment, I will happily edit this.. :)

You like it/don’t like it, please do comment.

Thank You For Reading ! Be Safe while Surfing !!