Is online privacy important to you? If you are reading this, the answer is probably yes. And if you say no, you’d better consider the recent political and marketing trends of 2017. It will either make you change your mind, unless you’re 100% certain you have absolutely nothing to hide.
If you do feel that some or all of your private information should be kept for yourself, stay tuned. This article will take you through the best methods to do it in 2017.
Political trends that will affect your online privacy
With the rise of Donald Trump, Putin and Li Keqiang, it’s looking more and more like the world is rapidly sliding toward the authoritarian side of things.
The Internet is going to be the front line of a lot of changes.
Rolling Stone magazine recently described the new “Trump era” atmosphere as an “anti-democratic war on facts and free speech.”
I’m not here to take a political stance. However, it is very reasonable to presume, that Trump regime will feel less restricted by democratic privacy rights than previous governments.
Meanwhile in Russia, Putin has recently approved the Yarovaya law, an anti-terrorism act that was described by Human Rights Watch as “Russia’s new counterterrorism law [that] takes Big Brother surveillance to a whole new level.”
The US government has been known in past to reduce privacy limitation in time of crises such as after 9/11. But yesterday’s emergency measures have become today’s normality
The Patriot Act gave the FBI almost unrestricted access to personal digital information on a national scale. In fact, the Department of Justice found that the FBI used it to obtain “large collections” of Americans’ data.
Many people don’t realize that although the Patriot Act expired in 2015, the Freedom Act was passed the next day, extending most of the original act’s provisions until 2019 under different names. So your digital privacy is far from safe.
In the current political atmosphere, we have to expect large-scale data sweeps on the civilian population.
Marketing privacy trends
As for marketing trends, it is very easy to notice how big data aggregators such as Bing, Yahoo and Google are perfecting their “filter bubble” algorithms to expose you to highly targeted ads wherever you go on the web.
You might think that this will increase the relevancy of the ads, so you’ll only be shown things you actually want.
However, both advertisers and commercial search engines are aware that most web users know very well already where to get their best online deals.
Their strategy is to stalk you and bombard you with repeated exposure to emotionally charged ads. This influences your subconscious and leads you to emotional buying.
Even if you feel immune to marketers’ manipulative influence, you probably just don’t realize how much they affect you because it’s below the level of your conscious mind.
Besides, these ads can get very annoying, often trying to play on your insecurities and push you into impulsive action.
Google has perfected its data collection methods in recent years. Part of this has involved the loosening of user privacy restrictions
Google has taken a very blasé attitude towards user privacy, but many watchdog groups are concerned.
Ed Mierzwinski, the consumer-program director at the consumer-advocacy group U.S. PIRG, went on record saying: “I find the entire online ecosystem that is designed to track consumers and then to place them in boxes … too opaque and too under-regulated. So I think the entire online marketing, and advertising, and lead-generation system is a consumer protection problem of both deception, and unfairness, and maybe abuse as well.”
Google doesn’t care for public uproar when online privacy is concerned.
The truth is that it can’t care too much. Google’s business model is to receive its main profits from advertisers, not users.
Noam Chomsky explains this in his book Manufacturing Consent. He says that the commercial data aggregator’s main product is you!
You (or at least your personal data) are what they sell, and their clients are the advertisers. The more personal info they have on you, the better a product you become.
Big media providers such as news agencies and commercial search engines not only supply information but also take part in designing the audience by careful choosing what information to show, what to highlight and what to hide or make hard to find.
The only way to escape this subtle bubble of control is by limiting your digital footprint as much as you can.
So what are the best ways to make my search private in 2017?
Never trust incognito search
The first thing you have to know is that Incognito or private mode doesn’t protect your privacy.
It does create fresh cookies, but your browsing history and your activities is still recorded by Google and your internet providers. Basically, everyone but you can see your browsing history.
Once Incognito is off, Google will make use of the information gathered in private mode for marketing purposes. In case the government asks for your data, Google will be obliged to deliver it.
Be careful what you search when you logged to Google+ account
Google’s privacy page says that Incognito will not work unless you are logged out of your Google+ account.
YouTube, Gmail, and Google Maps still record your behaviors even in private mode, as long as you logged in.
Use a private search engine
Effective private search is not just a privilege for spies and computer geniuses. In 2017 there is an impressive selection of high-quality private search engines that can ensure your online safety and offer quality search results.
MyPrivateSearch has is growing in popularity. It is simple to use, it gives great search results and it protects your online identity.
MyPrivateSearch doesn’t collect personal information at all. This is why your information can’t be accessed by marketers, hackers or governments.
Using a private search engine is probably the most important action you should take, if your privacy is important to you.
Use a dedicated laptop for sensitive searches and use it in random places
Your DNS (Domain Name System) is visible to your internet provider. Hackers and search engines can see it too.
They can associate the DNS with your specific search log and build up your profile.
When you want to be really private, it is better to use a dedicated computer and use it from another location than your normal online activity.
Use Tor to deliver data
Tor, also called “The Onion Router,” is a useful open-source tool for protecting data transfer.
It was named for its many layers of online defense.
Even though Tor is not perfect, it can give great protection by bouncing your communications around a network of relays. Using Tor has a bit of a bad reputation, as well as an aura of technical complexity, but these are both misconceptions.
It’s simple to download, easy to use and there are plenty of legitimate reasons to use it. It’s very popular with journalists and activists, for example. You don’t need to be either an international smuggler or a computer geek to use it.
Online privacy used to be only the concern of people who have something to hide. In 2017, that’s no longer the case. We all need to protect our privacy.
As marketers, hackers, and governments do their best to get a piece of your online persona, you must make a conscious effort to maintain your online privacy.
The sooner you start changing your habits, the safer you’ll be.