Friday, September 6, 2013

Growing Concern About Internet Privacy

Internet Privacy: What Do They Know?

Last May 2013, Edward Snowden shocked the United States Government when he leaked confidential data from NSA (National Security Agency) to The Guardian. Some of the leaked data were documents about programs such as the interception of U.S. and European telephone metadata and the PRISM, XKeyscore, and Tempura Internet surveillance programs. 

United States federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property on June 14, 2013, but before the U.S. filed the case, Snowden already flew in Hong Kong wherein the Hong Kong Government didn’t cooperate with the U.S. in arresting and handing Snowden to them. From Hong Kong Snowden flew to Russia wherein he was stuck in an airport there before given a temporary asylum by the Russian Government.

            But this article is not really about Edward Snowden and the NSA issue; it’s about Internet privacy. What government and companies really know about our Internet activities and personal information?
Internet Privacy
Source: hideyourselfonline

            On July, there was a report that came out from Twitter about the increasing request of several Governments tohand them personal information of the site’s users. Governments submitted a total of 1, 157 requests led by United States, which accounts for 78% of the total request. Japan was the second one with 8% of the entire request. Twitter said they grant the 67% request of the U.S. Twitter also said the requests typically were made in connection with criminal investigations and lamented that it was barred by law from revealing anything about information demanded through US national security letters. Some information includes real names, address, usage activities and more. Maybe others are wondering and asking what’s the importance of this on non-US citizens or those who do not break any law? It’s simple, companies like Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft tracks and save our Internet activities in their own databases. They can use this to present you relevant advertisements based on your activities. For example you searched “running shoes” in Google search, then Google will tailor specific advertisements regarding running shoes. These data are also being shared to other companies, like for example Facebook, so that they can show you advertisement based on your Internet history.

            And again some might wonder and ask what’s wrong with that? Just imagine this, some Internet companies will know where your exact location on earth, they will know when you visit a pornographic site; they will know your personal information (e.g. emails, name, telephone number, mobile number, home address). It’s like you are being stalked silently by some stranger and your never realized it. That’s not all the issue about Internet privacy. Another example, let’s say you sign up on a certain website, you provide your email and personal information. Then the company who owned the site can sell your information to other companies. Another, you sign up to a site that requires your credit card number. Then after few months or years, the site was hacked! And the hackers can already cracked and decrypt your information, including your credit card number. That in turn, they can use to steal money from your bank account.

            But there are certain ways you can stop Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, etc. from tracking your Internet activities. One way is to use incognito mode on your browser, but personally I think this would not really help. Other more effective way is to use Internet Proxy. There are free proxies being offered in the net. Another way and my favorite one is the Tor browser. Tor will conceal your identity and you can also explore the Deep Web through it. Using some of these ways will help to decrease the exposure of your activities. But what is better is to use these ways and at the same time not providing your real identity to websites as much as possible. For instance if your name is Juan dela Cruz, and you want to sign up to a social networking site, instead of proving your full real name, just provide J. Cruz or anything related that is not your full real name.

There’s a growing concern regarding Internet Privacy and how much companies and Government should know about us. We can’t really stop them, so we can just use some precautions when using the Internet. Happy browsing!

You might also want to read Types of Cybercrime.

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