Issue 132: Are You Protecting Your Internet Privacy?

What are you doing to protect yourself and your family from the "bad guys," corporations, and governments that want to know your business?

  
0:00
-16:36

Protecting Your Online Privacy

Over the past twelve months, I have felt an increasing need to protect my internet activity and private data from misappropriation and misuse. An apparent “compromise” of my password information held by Google pretty much made up my mind. I needed to take greater care of my online information and be less reliant on one provider; Google. Not only that, I needed to keep my info to myself rather than give it away for free. However, my attempts to shield myself may be in vain. Here’s what Cnet said recently on Google’s privacy policies;

For example, Google has admitted to scanning your Gmail messages to compile a list of your purchases in spite of publicly declaring in a 2018 press release, "To be absolutely clear: no one at Google reads your Gmail, except in very specific cases where you ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse." Perhaps by "no one" Google meant "no human," but in an age of increasingly powerful AI, such a distinction is moot.

Every email you write, and every email you receive via Google’s email servers tells them something about the way you live and work. Google Drive saves your files in a convenient way allowing collaboration with others across the globe, and it’s all free. Brilliant, right? The Google Maps application tells them where you’re going, where you’ve been, and for how long. The search terms you use when looking for garden hose parts, or cake ingredients, might give you the answer you were looking for, but it also tells them who you are.

The Google algorithm builds a profile and then serves you adverts based on that profile. Not only that, but they also build profiles of populations and their behaviour. It is pure gold for those who would wish to control or profit or indeed both. Microsoft and other tech firms do it too; it’s just Google are the masters. A recent change in how they collect data reported that they would automatically delete personal data for new subscribers after 18 months. Ok, good move, or is it? 18-month-old data is presumably useless anyway. Besides, I’m sure Google has found a means of getting around their own policies in this regard. As mentioned above, humans might not be able to read your data, but machines can.

Bottom line; I’m urging you to protect yourself from open manipulation and daylight robbery of your personal information. Here are some things you can do;

Move from Gmail to ProtonMail

Proton Technologies AG is a digital applications company created by scientists and engineers at CERN in an effort to build an internet that respects personal privacy and civil liberty. Their company is incorporated in Switzerland, and their servers are also located in Switzerland. This means strict Swiss privacy laws protect all user data. And no, I’m not an affiliate or shareholder or otherwise hold an interest in the company. They merely meet my criteria for higher levels of personal privacy. They also have a VPN service and are developing a Drive file storage application. As soon as it’s out of Beta, I’ll be on board.

Move from Chrome to Brave Browser

Brave Browser was created by the same guy that created Javascript and had a hand in the launch of Mozilla Firefox. The company is based in California and sets itself apart from other browsers (Chrome, Safari etc.) by stripping adverts from websites you visit. It is, however, built upon Google’s open-source Chromium software, so it runs in your browser just like Chrome does and allows the use of Chrome Store browser extensions. You can read more about that here.

Advertisers use hidden scripts to identify internet users, deliver them adverts, and track their movements across the web. But most people know nothing about this, and if they do, fail to give it a second thought. It’s like walking around with blinkers on and money hanging out of your pocket for anyone to take. Brave Browser blocks these trackers and scripts, however, there is some degree of compromise, and you should read this article to get the full picture before moving.

Install AdBlock

If moving to another browser sound too much like a hassle, you should install AdBlock. Here’s what the creators say about their application;

We built AdBlock to provide a worry-free and distraction-free Internet experience for everyone. It is used by tens of millions of users worldwide on all major browsers in more than 30 languages. Created by Michael Gundlach in 2009, AdBlock is open-source software designed to give users control over what they see in their web browser. It also gives users the ability to have control over their privacy by blocking many of the tools that advertisers and technology companies use to track people when they are online.

Adblock blocks YouTube adverts, Facebook adverts, Twitch, website ads and pop-ups and so on. That said, it is indiscriminate and prevents content you might actually want to access, so you’ll need to train it to allow content to show up for those sites.

In summary, the digital world has become ubiquitous with life, and I don’t believe there is any reversing of this. As such, some look to take commercial advantage of our naivety. “A fool and his money are easily parted” and all that. So we must find a way to protect our movements. We are entitled to live our lives and access services without the prying eyes of bad guys, corporations and governments looking over our shoulder. Of course, there is a danger that we might become conspiracy theorists in our concern for our own privacy, and that’s not something we want either. But it is prudent to protect oneself from those who would seek to gain profit from our naivety. That’s just senseible.


A New Domain for Sunday Letters

In other news…

Since moving to Substack, I intended to use my own domain for Sunday Letters; that is, the letters you see in the search window at the top of your browser.

Sunday Letters launched here on Substack’s private domain as per the above screenshot. That’s fine in and of itself and perhaps meant nothing untoward for the newsletter. However, I wanted it to reflect my own brand, so I moved it to larrygmaguire[dot]com the other day.

It cost fifty blips - a tad expensive, but I’m happier having done it. The move keeps the advantages of the Substack network while unifying the brand and making for greater fluency for readers. The old URLs will still work, redirecting readers to the new sub-domain and will not make any noticeable difference to your reading experience.


Essays on Ethical Leadership

I usually shy away from labels. However, in recent times having exposed myself to particular ideas notably that of Psychotherapist and social scientist Erich Fromm, I have begun to identify as a humanist socialist. Ethics are of a particular interest and I have begun writing on this. The Lead: Essays on The Art of Ethical Leadership is where you’ll find these.

This week I’m sharing some thoughts based on a conversation I had with my father on leadership and management in the workplace. For forty years he was a project manager and had a unique raport with the men on the ground. They had great admiration for him, and I suppose mostly unconsciously, I modelled myself on him. You can read about that here.


Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. If you enjoy Sunday Letters, consider supporting my work (20% off). I’m on Twitter if you’d like to follow me there. Oh, and there’s the Sunday Letters Podcast.

Get 20% off forever