Privacy Protection & Tracking the Trackers

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While I am by no means someone who deals with sensitive information, I do have a desire to protect my privacy online. Since I began learning about tracking technologies, mass surveillance, and ways corporations and governments can access data, I’ve been slowing moving away from certain websites, email programs, and even integrating tools to protect my privacy online. Here are some recommendations:

Hushmail

Hushmail bills itself as a privacy-oriented communications company, with no third-party ads and built-in encryption. You can get a free account with 25MB of storage. If you need more storage, then there are pay plans.

I started moving away from my personal gmail account in favor of hushmail. While the hushmail interface is rather basic in design, the HTTPS protection and encryption tools far outweigh a more sleeker-looking design.

RiseUp

Another email service that provides privacy protection for its users. Riseup uses encryption, does not log the IP address, and does not share data with anyone.

DuckDuckGo

A search engine that values customer privacy. Not only does DuckDuckGo not track it’s users, the company offers an eye-opening PSA about the perils of Google’s tracking capabilities. DuckDuckGo also provides an infographic on the “filter bubble” of search engines (see Eli Pariser, “The Filter Bubble” 2011, but also the TedTalk for more info).

The PSA is humorously pointed; however, the information provided in the graphic does match with Surveillance Studies research on pairing search data with individual identity with undesirable results, e.g. lesser credit ratings, denial of health insurance, loss of employment, etc.

Ghostry

This is a rather popular privacy tool that provides ways to track the trackers, but also ways to learn more about types of tracking technologies along with the companies that track data online.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Guide to Surveillance Self-Defense

This guide provides information about privacy, surveillance, and ways to protect privacy in many forms of communication. I highly recommend reading over the information in this site if you are unfamiliar with mass surveillance.

I also recently installed AVG’s Privacy Fix tool. I am a bit skeptical about some aspects of the tool, e.g. it asked for my login information for LinkedIn (I am rather weary of providing login information to another application, which could *potentially* be hacked). However, the tool does provide a “dashboard” tool allowing front-end users to see the tracking technologies on websites, and even how data is shared on the site.

I am always looking for privacy tool; if you have any recommendations, please comment!

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