Some believe that there is no possibility of privacy these days when surfing the Internet. Although it is true that 100% privacy is almost impossible in today’s cyberspace domain environment, there are ways to protect one’s normative privacy while still enjoying the surfing experience.
What are descriptive and normative privacies in Internet?
Descriptive privacy is “what you see is what you get.” If you visit a website at an Internet café, your descriptive privacy is the people that surrounds you. In the privacy of your room or office, it is just you and the device you use to access the Internet. No tricks… no hidden cameras, etc.
Normative privacy is your expectation that when you are looking at a website, it is you and the screen. You assume that you are alone but in reality there are many, many onlookers behind the screen. Today, every time you visit a website, you can expect to have more than 20 companies collecting information on your surfing experience.
This screen shot shows a CNN page in which 27 companies are trying to collect data.
This blog will teach you how to regain your normative privacy online.
What browser shall I use?
First, let’s quickly talk about the two or three that you should not even start in your computer or phone: Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera. Internet Explorer is the Gruyere cheese of all. It has so many security holes that one does not know where to start to patch. Safari is one-way channel of your surfing experience to Apple. Even in Private Mode, Safari will grab everything from your surfing experience to send back to Apple. Opera…no comments. :-) We are left with Chrome and Firefox.
For many years, we recommended Mozilla Firefox as the best by far Internet browser because of its privacy protections. This changed on or around September 2015. Shortly, I will explain but without further ado, I introduce you to today’s best Internet browser: Chrome in Incognito Mode.
In September 2015, Mozilla Firefox announced, “data stolen from its bug tracking system was used to attack Firefox users in the wild.” Then, not shortly after, Mozilla Firefox announced that it had discovered the presence of a rogue employee changing code, etc., etc. and Mozilla Firefox began releasing one version after another. Moreover, Mozilla Firefox is a non-profit organization that receives 51% of its operating budget from a questionable group. Therefore, it is not a platform that I trust or use at all these days.
How do I configure Chrome for privacy?
Chrome has a regular mode and an Incognito mode. The incognito mode does not open automatically, the user has to go to File—New Incognito Window, or click on the three parallel lines to the right of the screen and select New Incognito Window, or with the keyboard press at the same time Shift+Ctrl+N.
First things first… we need to change some of the settings in Chrome to regain your normative privacy. For that, I invite you to look at this PDF.
Notice that at the end of the file, I list the Extensions that you need to include in Chrome to help you with privacy. The extension Ghostery needs a further adjustment. Ghostery, if you closed the Tab that opens when you install it, you can re-open it by going to Settings—Extensions and clicking the Options in Ghostery. You will put a check mark on Enable tracker library auto-updating and then you will click on Select All under Trackers and click Save at the bottom of the page. Even though I am asking you to use Chrome in Incognito mode, I want you to have a protective barrier in the regular Chrome in case it takes you a few days to get used to switching to Incognito mode. Ghostery pushes away the companies snooping on you. These companies violate your normative privacy and you can see them in the image above, in the purple bubble.
As for the extension Keyboard Privacy, did you know that your typing has a pattern as unique as a fingerprint and that there are companies collecting those patterns? Keyboard Privacy extension scrambles your typing pattern so you cannot be tracked online based on how you move your fingers around the keyboard.
What browser can I use on my phone and tablet?
Chrome! The easiest way to teach yourself to stop using Safari and to switch to Chrome is by going to System Settings on your iPhone or iPad, select Safari and cancel Use Cellular Data. You will only access Safari when you have WiFi enabled.
To configure Chrome in your phone, follow the instructions in this PDF that I host in my Dropbox.
You cannot add extensions to Chrome for iPhone or iPad.
To access Incognito Mode, you will click on the three vertical lines to the right of the screen, and select Incognito mode.
How to configure Safari in your desktop and mobile devices for maximum privacy?
Even though Apple likes to be with you 24/7/365 when you surf the Internet, you can keep some level of privacy by adjusting the following. This link takes you to a PDF that I have parked in my Dropbox and has screen shots and instructions.
As for Safari on mobile devices, if you go to Settings-> Safari, change the following:
Search Engine: DuckDuckGo (next blog will talk about Search Engines); Search Engine Suggestion= OFF; Safari Suggestions=Off; Quick Website Search=Off; Preload Top Hit=Off.
Do not save passwords and autofill data.
Frequently visited sites = OFF; Block Pop-Ups=On (green); Do not Track =On; Block Cookies = Allow from Websites I visit; Fraudelent Website Warning=On; Use Cellular Data= Off .
Get in the habit of clearing the History and Website Data daily.
As you can see, privacy in the United States of America is an Opt-out feature. In other words, it is up to you to educate yourself and get out of all the ways these companies are using to track you and your habits, your children, etc. This should be the other way around – For those who do not care about privacy at all, they can opt-in to have their lives disclosed and habits tracked.
If you want to read more on privacy online, look at the Protective Data Privacy implemented in the European Union. I would like to see the same implemented in our country.
Next blog will talk about Search Engines and Privacy.
On another note, and in case you are an art enthusiast; I have opened my virtual art gallery at www.art-meta.com. Your visit is highly appreciated and you can subscribe to the newsletter that comes out once a month announcing new artwork and artists added to the site. You can find it in Facebook at Art Meta Gallery.
Thank you for reading. This is all for now folks!
Meta brings the course Risk Management When Online to your organization regardless of where you are located. Watch this short clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRXazQuPzFs Then call us to schedule training for your team or organization.
About the Blog
This blog is updated on a bi-weekly basis and it will address a variety of topics concerning cybertechnology, privacy and ethics in the cyberspace domain.