Privacy Online is a Myth

Why that privacy program installed in your computer, does nothing to protect your privacy.

Steve Smith talks about the way the Internet works, and how it defeats privacy in a way ignored by most Netizens.

Episode #6-36 released on May 22, 2016

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What you don't know about the Internet can fill a whole pool. With the exception of web-site designers, network administrators, and all those this topic already interests, the Internet just works, but no one really takes a minute to think how. Every time you connect to a web-site you set off a chain reaction of flares that give out your position, so is it really true that privacy programs you install on your computer, work?

Well your identity online is tied to your IP address, mostly, it is not the only method you are tracked, but generally, we use mobile devices and they all have their own IP address. Some may state that using a proxy or VPN will protect them, but only under two conditions. That the services don't record the traffic, and that you are not the only one using them. And, these methods merely mask your IP address, they don't address other tracking methods deployed by web-sites.

Then there are services that are used by your computer, laptop, or mobile device. Update services for operating systems, DNS servers, etc. can give away your location to companies without requiring a browser to be open. Which means your computer is already giving away its location. In some cases, computers and devices include anti-theft mechanisms that include GPS functionality that makes them easier to find, these can definitely be used to exploit your location.

And, to make matters worse, you don't connect directly to servers you are interested in, you connect through a series of servers, which probably collect meta data about everyone connecting through them. In fact, you can set the TTL of packets to 255, which means up to 255 servers can collect meta data on your connection. Forget web-sites and blocking social media and advertisements, everyone knows where you are headed. And, unlike servers with privacy policies, and laws requiring notification, which I understand but find a waste of time, those servers are hidden from your view. At least, when you go to my web-site you can see the source code and see all the connections, but you can't do the same for all those servers that just pushed the packet to your device. And, the same holds true for any programs in your computer requesting or sending data, updates, and anything else your computer may use the Internet for.

Your privacy online is a myth, and all those programs are selling you half-truths. If your intention is to prevent advertisements from third parties from loading, while ignoring the number of third party servers you just connected through to access the web-site, it is already too late. Everyone wants privacy, but there is no convention on how servers save, store, share or sell connection data. And, this is just as valuable as all those point cards you use that, also, track your behavior and habits.

Now, the connection meta data is valuable, and there is a silver lining, if you are connecting to a web-site that uses SSL, then while all the servers know where you are going, they do not know what your accessing, at least not exactly. They will have the meta data related to the page you accessed, and if the file is part of the open Internet, they can access it for themselves later on, but if you need to login to see it, then they can only know you accessed it. In some cases, governments, and police agencies may acquire the information, if it exists beyond the time of access in the form of logs and stored data, with a warrant, hopefully.

Which brings me to my actual point, those programs you use to keep third parties from seeing you online, only affect the ones that show up in the browser, and even then, your Internet connection will betray you, sorry but privacy online, beyond encrypting the message, is a myth. There is quite literally nothing you can do about it. TOR, VPNs, Proxies, and similar tools rely on mass usage to mask the users' activities online. If too few users use them, then they are easier to spot online. And if everyone online used a different VPN, Tor, Proxy, etc., it negates the effectiveness of the tools, too. More people have to use fewer services. And then, there will be logs of users connecting, and exiting either end of the connection.

Then finally, cookies, browser fingerprinting, etc. will betray you online. When using those services, you need to use a different browser, that is clean. Any cookies and browser fingerprints related to your computer that has been seen on the normal Internet will raise alarms when you use privacy tools.

And, to further reinforce my point, as pointed out by Edward Snowden, the NSA used a program called Prism to essentially collect the metadata traveling between servers, instead of trying to skim them from the web-sites themselves, since the transiting packets could be just copied, it makes it more vulnerable to tampering and storage without being detected. And, while many may state that Prism programs may be dead, new programs under different names are without a doubt being used, and in just about every country, because we are essentially bullied by governments, and sold by private industry.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

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