How to protect one’s identity and personal data?

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Revolutionary for some, data mining, or the automated exploration of data, is a considerable technological breakthrough that benefits not only research but also civil society. For now, this process is not framed by any legal status. From a purchase on a site to your discussions on social networks, all your actions on the internet are monitored and collected. With the rise of corporate spyware and the internet of things, we are heading in the direction of our offline life being heavily monitored as well.

Our data has become a resource that will soon be more important than oil.

E-reputation

Data mining comes to know your tastes, your political opinions, your religious beliefs, your love life, and even your desires! Indeed, companies use our tracks on the web to profile us for marketing purposes, or even to produce TV series specially designed to meet the expectations of the audience (as in the case of House of Cards, the series produced by Netflix). Some years ago, the Target affair caused a stir in the United States. This company was able to predict the pregnancies of its customers and offer them adapted products, before they were pregnant or before the pregnancy was officially announced. Scary, isn’t it?

Here are some ways we can protect our data and avoid the creepiness of governments and targeted ads:

1) Surf in private mode, which among other things prevents other users of the computer from accessing your search history. To surf fully anonymously you can use Tor.

2) Most search engines collect information about their users (keywords, IP address). Use confidential search engines that do not collect your data:

  • DuckDuckGo
  • Ixquick
  • Qwant
  • YaCy

3) It is possible to guard against profiling by using modules that block cookies:

  • AdBlock for Chrome and Adblock Plus for Firefox
  • FlashBlock for Chrome or Firefox
  • Disconnect for Chrome or Firefox

4) While many websites support secure connections, which are critical for your security and privacy, a number of sites do not activate it by default. To enable this security wherever possible, you can use HTTPS Everywhere.

5) When possible, provide disposable email addresses when you leave your email address on a site.

6) Do not divulge too much personal information on the internet. It is up to everyone to be vigilant on this point. Make sure you control your e-reputation by making an inventory of your presence on the web. Enhance your image by becoming active: create an online CV, set the confidentiality of your social networks…

Besides mass-surveillance, there are other risks to your data.

7) Avoid all viruses, spyware, and hacker attacks. These could compromise all of your data.

8) Don’t let nosy or malicious people access your electronic devices. Keep them password-protected and encrypted.

9) Don’t use unsecured wi-fi networks. If you do, use a VPN.

10) When traveling, back up your data and wipe your phone if you do not want government creeps looking at your data and possibly keeping a copy.

11) Use Linux. Especially avoid Windows 10, which is notorious for spying on its users. Qubes and Tails Linux have been endorsed by Mr. Snowden.

12) Keep your operating systems and software updated. Reinstall frequently if you are paranoid.

13) For maximum privacy, stay away from electronics. Turn them off when possible. Go somewhere where there is no internet access and bond with your ancestors who lived in such privacy that we hardly know anything about them.

Translated from http://bibliotheque-blogs.unice.fr/neurones/2014/06/10/david-contre-goliath-comment-proteger-son-identite-et-ses-donnees-numeriques/

With some original additions.