US President Donald Trump has opened up a new era in online advertising on the heels of his signing off on the new law that allows Internet Service Providers to resell their customer data.
It is now time for customers to look at this brave new world and do some hard thinking about their lack of online privacy. Without acting consistently and actively to support this privacy – it will be irreparably gone. The question we all should be asking ourselves is this: What happens if an ISP mines my private data as extensively as Google and Facebook are already tracking my online activities?
The direct and indirect answers: First, it means that you are likely to get even more closely targeted ads, ones that seem to be an uncanny close fit you to as an individual. Second, it means that you should, with reason, have an unsettled sensation in your stomach about the security of everything that goes out from your computer. After all, despite the Internet being pitched as the place of unlimited access to free information, it is one of the most closely watched places on the planet.
Trump’s signature just makes it more clear – if you want privacy, you better actively get it for yourself.
Problems and solutions
There are two primary ways any snooper – from a cybercriminal to ad agency – collects private information about you. 1. Listens in on the communication. 2. Tracks who you are contacting and when.
The solution is also two-fold: 1. Shut out eavesdroppers by encrypting everything. 2. Block trackers from identifying you and your device. Thankfully, Avira offers two free apps that can keep this from happening – Scout, our security-focused web browser, and the Phantom Virtual Private Network.
Here comes the Scout
With Scout, we’ve taken the basic Chromium code and tweaked it to be more supportive of user privacy and security by removing the built-in requests to Google services and introducing some quite powerful solutions on top.
Shifts to encrypted HTTPS – Scout includes HTTPS Everywhere, the EFF plugin that will shift your browsing to encrypted HTTPS sites whenever possible.
Stops trackers twice – Scout takes a two-fold approach to identifying and stopping invasive trackers. We use our own blacklist of trackers and then supplement this with the EFF’s Privacy Badger which uses a behavioral detection approach.
Highlights and stops social media tracking – Scout draws a red line around the always-on tracking elements in social media such as Facebook or LinkedIn. This provides a dual benefit of alerting users to their presence and then stopping their automatic collection of user data.
It’s your choice – Scout gives users a choice as to how private they can be with its automatic pilot settings of Safe Surfing, Safe and Private – or lets them make their own privacy choices.
Look out for Phantom VPN
Phantom VPN is a full-fledged VPN that encrypts communication and web addresses point-to-point – without keeping logs of user activities.
Mandatory encryption – Encryption is mandatory primary element with Phantom VPN, regardless of your operating system or device. It does not provide “approximate” or proxy VPN coverage that only relabels location and ignores the content. We encrypt it all.
Hides the DNS address book – Phantom VPN even encrypts the names of the sites you are visiting in addition to the communication.
Choice of location – Phantom VPN lets you pick your virtual location. This option lets you unlock a wealth of geo-restricted content whether you are safely at home or halfway around the globe.
All they want is you
“Follow the money” was the immortal statement from All the President’s Men – and it still applies to our online lives of today as much as it did to yesterday’s Watergate burglary and President Nixon.
The eternal goal of advertisers is to identify the individual consumer, send them highly targeted ads, tally up the results, then repeat the cycle again. But there is more to life than that. While technology enables others to reconstruct a too-accurate of your online activities, we believe it can also equip you to protect your identity and autonomy as a human being.