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Across the Metaverse

Is your future in the ’embedded internet’?

Can you travel across the Metaverse? Should you?

If you ever saw The Matrix, a 1999 movie starring Keanu Reeves and Lawrence Fishburn, you might guess roughly what this is about. In the movie, self-aware machines have trapped the human race in a virtual reality simulation.

Laurence Fishburne Doesn't Know Why 'Matrix 4' Left Morpheus Out | IndieWire

Well, now a real life version of The Matrix could be coming our way. Facebook and Microsoft have made much noise lately about their versions: an “embedded internet” meant to render the current internet obsolete.

Facebook’s Version of the Metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, calls his version the “Metaverse”. A “people-first internet”, it would rely less on current forms of social media and browser search. Instead, it would rely far more on VR and AR connections that seem almost to be alternate worlds. Zuckerberg has committed himself so fiercely to this vision, he renamed Facebook as ‘Meta’.

At a recent Oculus Connect event, Zuckerberg’s troops demonstrated seamless connectivity between some of its apps, such as Messenger, and Oculus VR and AR devices. Zuckerberg emphasizes social media and personal use.

Microsoft’s Version

Microsoft, by contrast, gears its version to business and professional use. The company claims to have built a collection of tools for enabling businesses to create “immersive spaces”. Via AR and VR, these tools will facilitate more advanced online meetings. Some apps enable ‘moving’ and interacting in virtual factories and retail outlets. These apps go by the name of Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces.

Microsoft calls the software for this project “Mesh”.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, dismisses Meta’s version as unrealistic. “The public perception of The Metaverse, as a futuristic world where plugged-in people recreate their whole lives online, is still a ways off. But business uses are starting to be available now.”

What Should You Believe?

Of course, we can’t predict the future. However, we can make some educated guesses. The Metaverse is unlikely to be as sinister as alarmists predict. And it’s unlikely to benefit us as much as its promoters predict.

Every new communication medium can draw us in and tempt us to abandon reality. All can be addictive. This was true of the original internet. It was true of television. It was even true of radio. We decide how much we’re going to immerse ourselves in any medium. We can walk away if we want to.


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How to Remove Your Digital Ex

Divorce or breakup can be heartbreaking. And the heartbreak can prove all the more intense if we’re unable to avoid contact with our exes- or reminders of life with them. So if you’ve suffered a breakup, then, how can you remove your ex from your digital life?

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Block or Unfollow Your Ex

This would seem to be elementary. Most of us, though, find it difficult to suppress curiosity about our exes. Still, we have to discipline ourselves to avoid searching their profiles. If we do search them, we train the Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram algorithms to show us more about them, and this is also true of inquiries on browser search engines such as Google, Safari, or Firefox.

You may also have to mute friends or family members (temporarily, of course) who often share photos of your ex. This tells the algorithms you want to avoid these people, and your feed will feature different posts.

Remove Memories from Your Tablets, Phones, and Social Media

If you own one of the newer iPhones, this will be easy. In iOS 14, you’ll find a tool labelled Suggest Fewer Memories Like This. To activate it, open the Photos tab. Tap the For You icon, and you’ll find a list labelled Memory. Choose one you want to eliminate. You’ll find three dots next to your choice. Hit these, and you’ll be shown two options: Delete Memory and Suggest Fewer Memories Like This.

In Facebook, you’ll find the Hide People option on the left side of the Memories page.

Google Photos offers the options of hiding people, pets, or even particular dates- so you can avoid painful reminders of anniversaries. Find the Photos app, scroll to Photo Settings, and open the Memories tab. When you find it, hit the Hide People or Pets or Hide Date icons.

Monitor Your Smart Home Devices

If you neglect this step, you’re begging for trouble. Out of concern for privacy, we recommend NOT acquiring an Alexa or Siri device in the first place. If you do have one, though, and you can’t bear to part with it, at least exercise caution with it. An ex could activate the device remotely- even when you’re away from your home.

Kim Komando, a web expert who bills herself “Your Digital Goddess”, says she’s heard more stories than she can count about exes connecting to WiFi systems of old mates and bugging their routers. Even worse, it’s legal in most jurisdictions to hack WiFi.

Remove or Audit Old Accounts

Some web services, such as iCloud and Google Drive, allow access by exes to sensitive data, including text and photos, so you may have to contact the provider to remove your ex’s access. Exercise special vigilance in monitoring shared paid services, and ejecting your ex if necessary.

Change Your Passwords and Security Questions

Kim Komando suggests changing your passwords to any old accounts if there’s even a chance your ex still has them. And don’t forget the security questions. Even in a casual relationship, partners are likely remember important events in each other’s histories.

For paid services, such as Netflix, you may need additional steps after changing passwords. Check the box marked Require All Devices to Sign in Again with New Password. You’ll have to log in again, but your privacy- and avoiding additional expense- is worth the inconvenience.


If you want to remove your ex from your online activity, these suggestions will help. Remember: eternal vigilance is the price of privacy.


One of the most important aspects of online security is a reliable internet connection. For the best deals in internet service, contact Satellite Country. We can help. Call now.


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States May Ban Online Censorship

Until now, the Masters of the Universe have seemed invulnerable. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Amazon have grown accustomed to getting their way without effective opposition. Competitors can’t challenge their market domination, and the Biden-Harris junta evidently doesn’t want to rein them in. Unless the states intervene, Big Tech owns us.

A 'Walker, Texas Ranger' reboot is happening — here's what we know

Some states, though, have decided to enter the fray. Many have accused major tech platforms of online censorship. Florida and Montana led the way, considering laws forbidding censorship in social media, browser search engines, and online shopping fora.

Add Texas to the list. Texas Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) sponsored a bill that could penalize Amazon, Facebook, Google, or Amazon for blocking access to information or commentary.

The bill would authorize Texans banned or suspended by Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube to sue them.

Hughes said, “We don’t allow a cable company to cut off your television because it doesn’t like your religion.”

What do the states say this is about?

Governor Greg Abbott backed the Hughes bill. “Big Tech’s effort to censor conservative viewpoints is un-American”, Abbott said, “and we’re not going to allow it in the Lone Star State.” Abbott accused several firms of leading “a dangerous movement to censor conservative voices and religious freedoms.”

To this, Abbott’s targets have a prepared response. Online firms have long claimed safe harbor under Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The section treats them as ‘common carriers’, not as publishers. They would, therefore, be immune from defamation or copyright infringement lawsuits for material posted on their platforms. The reasoning is that they don’t control what users post, any more than the phone carrier controls voice conversations.

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Abbott and Hughes argue that certain firms have forfeited these exemptions. They’ve done so, Abbott says, by acting as publishers. Rejecting content for political, religious, or social reasons is the behavior of a publisher. And publishers don’t qualify for Section 230 protection.

Will the states prevail in court? Check this space for updates.

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Facial Recognition Technology Will Change Your Life

Any celebrity can tell you that fame comes at a price. If millions of people know who you are and recognize your facial features, you can attract an awful lot of unwanted attention.

You may be thinking: “So? I’m not a celebrity, so this has nothing to do with me.”

Don’t be so sure about this. With recent advances in facial recognition tools, you too may suffer this aspect of fame. Yes, when you’re out of your house, complete strangers could recognize you and track your every move.

Much of this you bring on yourself. Consider, for example, your use of social media. You post what you eat, what TV shows you watch, where you meet your friends for drinks, and even what your pets are doing. All this personal information you post on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram means anyone who cares to look can easily find you with a browser search.

9/11 terrorists caught testing airport security months before attacks
Mohammed Atta (right) and Abdulaziz Alomari at a security checkpoint in Portland International Airport
September 10, 2001

As if this doesn’t leave you exposed enough, small, easily concealable cameras are nearly everywhere. Add a few minor tweaks to facial recognition technology which, when it becomes just a little cheaper and more readily available, will enable nearly anyone to follow nearly anyone else in real time.

Your privacy, then, could soon become extinct. Everything you do away from home- and when you do it- will be accessible to the world at large..

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Tom Cruise as John Anderton in Minority Report sees a video ad that has been customized for him, and that calls him by name.

How did we get here?

Take a close look at the photo above. Here you see Mohammed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari, two of the most import conspirators in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, passing through an airport security checkpoint. The next day, Atta and Alomari would hijack Flight 111 from Boston and fly it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. They and their co-conspirators would murder 2,977 people.

To counter-terrorism professionals, this is one of the most disturbing of all 9/11-related images. It disturbs not for what it displays, but what it implies.

The photo demonstrates that law enforcement and intelligence professionals had the information to prevent the 9/11 atrocities. Atta and Alomari had been testing airport security systems for months, and were on federal watch lists. But airport cops couldn’t recognize and stop the pair, lacking the necessary facial recognition tools and image database.

Law enforcement and intelligence adopt FR

Following the 9/11 atrocity, the U.S government strove to make up for lost time. Security experts wanted advanced facial recognition tools- and fast. Electronics firms were happy to meet the new demand, and continually refined their cameras and algorithms to capture ever greater detail, nuance, and accuracy. Software engineers developed machine learning apps that could sift through gigantic image databases almost instantaneously, eliding over irrelevant photos.

Now the technology is nearly perfect. Chinese police recently used facial recognition tools to find a suspect in a dense crowd of 50,000 concert attendees. The PRC also uses the tools to catch jaywalkers and send them instant fine notifications.

Amazon, one of the leaders in the field, sells a real-time facial recognition system, called REKOGNITION, to police departments all over the U.S.

Commercial uses multiply

September 12, 2017 is another signature date in the history of facial recognition. On that date, Apple unveiled the iPhone X. Previous face-scanning phones could be spoofed easily with masks or video. The iPhone X could not. It was the first phone with a truly safe face-scanning security portal.

The success of the iPhone X has opened up other possible uses:

  • Automated tagging of individuals on Facebook and Instagram
  • Recognition of, and automatic adjustment of seat and steering wheel placement for, each authorized driver of a car driven by several people
  • Flagging of frequent hotel guests immediately on their entry into the lobby, so they can bypass the usual desk check-in, and their room doors will open automatically as they approach
  • Streamlining of airport security checks… Your face will be your boarding pass.
  • More convenient shopping… At an FR-enabled retail store, you simply walk in, pick up the goods you want to buy, and walk out. You never have to produce cash or swipe a card. The store automatically deducts the price of your purchases from your credit card.
  • Highly personalized advertising… As you pass a billboard, a kiosk, or a mall sign, it will display ads tailored to your known interests, and may even call you by name.

Don’t call any of this far-fetched. Some of these applications have been implemented already. Others are on the way, and will reach consumer markets shortly.

Can facial recognition threaten your privacy or safety?

FR Technology brings many benefits, but there may be a few drawbacks in it. It could become a serious threat to your privacy, or even your career or your safety.

In a future post, we will explore the dangers of FR technology in detail.

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World Wide Web Inventor Calls for Its Overhaul

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, is unhappy with it.  He has been saying for years that it has evolved into something far different from what he envisioned. Not much more than ten years ago, the web was a decentralized open platform, but since then a few corporate giants have come to dominate it. Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon hold a near-stranglehold over online information and commerce, and web surfers have to surrender privacy to get much use out of the web.

Image result for world wide web images

So what can we do to correct this sorry state of affairs? Well, Berners-Lee is hard at work on an alternative. Next week, he will launch a for-profit business called  Inrupt. Based on a crowd-sourced platform called Solid, it is meant to enable developers all over the world to wrest control of the web away from governments and corporate giants.

“It’s a historical moment.”

If Berners-Lee and his crew are successful, Google, Facebook, and Amazon will soon be struggling for survival. Berners-Lee is open about hisdesire not only to challenge them, but to take them down.. He jokingly (?) says his goal is ‘world domination’, and he says he wants a completely new internet. He said he is not consulting with Google or Facebook about how he will upend their business models. In his words: “We’re not asking their permission.”

“We have to do it now”, he said of Inrupt. “It’s a historical moment.”

Why now?

The need for a disruptive internet model has never been more obvious. For the last five years, one scandal after another has reminded us that our personal data is subject to manipulation and theft.

You’ve no doubt heard the news about Cambridge Analytica and the Obama reelection campaign hijacking Facebook user data to aid their political campaigns. Twitter and YouTube have been caught blocking, shadow-banning, or demonetizing conservative content. Google vacuums up personal data for ads, and apparently adjusts search functions for political reasons. In a recently released video of a Google corporate conference, several executives spoke of “our values”, with some pledging to use the platform to promote them. All of ‘our values’ were blatantly political.

We obviously- and urgently- need drastic overhaul of the world wide web. Otherwise, we will soon lose all semblance of honest and objective online information service.

Who’s in control?

Berners-Lee and Inrupt propose to address the failings of the dominant internet systems with a platform called Solid. With it, the user can create his own ‘personal online data store’ or POD. It will feature his calendar, music library, video library, contact list, to-do list, chat, and research tools. It’s like combining Outlook, WhatsApp, Slack, Spotify, and Google on the same browser- all available at the same time.

Most importantly, the data is under the user’s control. All the data he produces will be protected within his POD. The information will be secure, out of reach for his ISP, Google, Facebook, or any advertising engine- unless the user wants to release it. He can customize the degree of access he wants to provide for each bit of data.

This is a huge departure from the current internet model. In the last few years,  Google, Facebook, and other firms have been holding and controlling most online data in ‘silos’ that they built.

In the Solid web model, there are no silos.

What happens next?

Beginning almost immediately, developers can start building their own apps for the Inrupt platform. And Berners-Lee will spend the autumn tutoring developers and executives in building apps for Solid and Inrupt.

Tim Berners-Lee has set a daunting goal for himself. Can he really replace the current world wide web with something far better? Don’t bet against it. He has a record of bringing into fruition projects that others thought impossible.

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California Enacts New Privacy Law

The Golden State claims to have blazed a trail in the protection of online privacy.  The California legislature has passed, and Governor Jerry Brown has signed, an online privacy bill that its supporters say requires full disclosure and the right to opt out of data sharing and third-party sharing. The consumer will also be able to delete collected data if he wishes.

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Some consumer advocates are unsatisfied with the bill. They say that businesses should be required to obtain opt-in consent before collecting or sharing user data. Some internet service providers and online advertisers fiercely opposed the bill, though, so it couldn’t have been entirely toothless.

All parties will have ample time to adapt to the new law. It won’t be in force until 2020.

Was the privacy bill necessary?

Advocates of the privacy law point to recent events that they say indicate need for action. Among these are a pattern of serious data breaches, Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data, scrutiny of tech platforms by Congress, and the FCC’s handing off of online privacy concerns to the FTC.

An even tougher data privacy bill had been scheduled for placement on this November’s ballot. Now that the California legislature has acted, though, the sponsors of this tougher bill have agreed to abandon their effort.

The lobby that most actively promoted the bill is Common Sense Media. Two Democrats, Senator Robert Hertzberg and Assemblyman Ed Chau, introduced it n the legislature.

Did anyone object?

Some analysts say the new law will bring more harm than good. The critics argue that web users gladly exchange personal data for free goods and services. The new law would inhibit these exchanges. Web users, then, would miss out on many essential services- or would have to pay for them.

Some privacy advocates say the California law doesn’t go far enough. They want the ‘opt out’ standard replaced with ‘opt in’. In other words, ISPs, browsers, and social media couldn’t collect user data without express consent from users. Under the the new privacy standard, consumers can opt out of sharing or commercial use of their data. But they have to act affirmatively to do so. They waive their online privacy unless they remember to act affirmatively to protect it.

The new law incorporates a separate children’s rights section. This section does require opt in parental consent for sale of data from minors under 16 yeas old. The law provides for fines and lawsuits for breaches of this section.

Will other states follow suit?

Will California’s online privacy bill be a model for other states? It’s too early to tell. The state’s political and cultural climates are so unusual, it can be difficult to predict when its accepted practices will be adopted elsewhere.


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Zuckerberg in the Hot Seat

Mark Zuckerberg may soon cease to be a Master of the Universe. At least, that’s what we can gather from some of the Congressional reactions to his recent testimony on Capitol Hill.

Image result for mark zuckerberg

The Facebook CEO has been under fire lately over some of the social platform’s questionable business practices. These include blocking or ‘shadow-banning’ content for political reasons, limiting the reach of ads customers had paid for, and selling user data to third parties.

The immediate catalyst for the hearings was a recent report about Facebook’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica. The latter had apparently collected user data through an app called Global Science Research. More than 270,000 people allowed use of their data, but Cambridge was able to collect data about their friends, too. Cambridge used the data to promote Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

At this news, Congressional Democrats erupted. Of course, it may help to keep matters in perspective. Facebook had also allowed the Obama reelection campaign to exploit user data in 2012- and had not charged for it. Obama campaign officials even bragged about Facebook’s willingness to help them, and Mr. Zuckerberg visited the White House dozens of times between 2009 and 2013.

The legacy press apparently saw no problem with this. Many establishment reporters even hailed Obama for his genius and foresight in use of social media.

The Rules Change

It wasn’t the data collection itself, then, that offended the high and mighty. It wasn’t even the fact that most of it was without user consent. Facebook’s real crime, evidently, was that in 2016 a REPUBLICAN campaign had been able to exploit its user data.

Never mind that Obama’s people had used Facebook data far more extensively- and in the general election, while Cambridge had used it for Trump only during the primary. Never mind that Facebook had been happy- even eager- to help Obama. If Trump benefited, then data collection practices that had hitherto been perfectly acceptable were suddenly grave sins.

Mr. Zuckerberg Goes to Washington

And so, Mark Zuckerberg was required to explain himself to Congress. Democrats flayed him over Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg was deeply respectful and promised that he would try very very hard to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Some Republicans asked about censorship of conservative posts. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) grilled Zuckerberg closely about it. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) asked how Facebook determines what is or isn’t offensive content. In the face of this line of inquiry, the witness dodged and weaved, offering carefully worded and evasive responses.

On the whole, Mr. Zuckerberg proved carefully prepared- and quite slippery. We got the impression that Facebook may never provide a full accounting for its privacy and censorship practices, and that the reforms it promises will only be cosmetic.


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Ditching Twitter & Facebook: Part II

You’ve hate Twitter and Facebook. I hate Twitter and Facebook. Despite our exasperation with them, though, we can scarcely imagine living without them. We need reliable platforms for connection with family and friends, and we don’t know where else to go. We worry that ditching the biggest network platforms will bring social isolation.

Image result for rejection images

Don’t give up. There are multiple alternatives, one for almost every specialized need. Which one is best for you will depend on your interests and personality.

Here are a few of the more popular social media platforms:


LinkedIn is geared for professionals job seekers, and others seeking work or business opportunities. It has more than 500 million users in more than 200 countries. LinkedIn defines its mission as “…connect(ing) the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”

Employers post job openings on LinkedIn, job seekers post curriculum vitae on it, and both use it to maintain and extend contact networks. Job seekers can review profiles of hiring managers and see if any of their existing contacts can introduce them.

Users can even post articles and share video on LinkedIn.


Perhaps you’re fed up with shadowbanning and other abuse dished out by Twitter. Maybe you’re frustrated with its 140-character limit. If this is the case, GAB may be platform you need.

GAB is what Twitter claims to be, but isn’t. GAB is a truly open platform that doesn’t censor user posts. It also allows longer posts, with a 300-character limit.

GAB does enforce a code of conduct, just as other social media do. GAB is much more specific about what it forbids, though, and doesn’t exploit vague standards as an excuse for political censorship.

Mighty Networks

Unlike Facebook, which attempts to connect people who already know each other, Mighty Networks seeks to expand user social contacts. The platform’s ‘pods’ are based on common interests. With the Mighty Networks, it’s easier to reach new people who share the same passions and concerns.

Users can join existing ‘pods’ or create their own. With a Mighty Network account, you can organize contacts by similarity, shared interests, or physical proximity. You can even earn money for building a community.


Mastodon is a decentralized open-source network. It allows up to 500 characters per post, so it’s better than twitter at enabling extended conversation.

Mastodon differs from other social media in that it doesn’t sell user data to advertisers. Mastodon permits no advertising, data mining, or walled gardens.


Diaspora bills itself “the anti-Facebook”. Like Mastodon, it is a decentralized network. Instead of holding user data on centrally located servers controlled by a giant corporation, Diaspora operates on independently controlled servers in many locations. Users own all of their data on the network.

With your Diaspora account, you don’t have to use your own name, and you control who gets to see your posts.


NextDoor was founded on the theory that social media have alienated us from our neighbors. Most of our Twitter and Facebook contacts live far away from us, and few of us know many of the people who live nearby.

NextDoor was designed to reintroduce you to your neighbors, and its networks are based on geographic location. NextDoor is a forum for informing users about events in their neighborhoods. The platform is useful for planning local events, warning neighbors about dangerous visitors, reporting lost and found items, and even scheduling babysitters.

Other Networks

These are a few of the more popular general interest social platforms. There are others that cater to special interests. Ello bills itself the creator’s network, “built by artists for artists”. Dogster and Catster connect pet lovers. Peanut connects mothers seeking emotional support, advice, or opportunities to vent. Wanelo is a network for avid shoppers. Vero is a photo-sharing platform.

There are other networks, such as Tumblr and Reddit, that are already well established.

If you look, you can find a suitable substitute for Twitter and Facebook.

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How to Unplug Facebook

Should we unplug Facebook? The social medium, though it has 1.4 billion followers, is a huge headache for many of us. It vacuums up our personal data to sell to advertisers, and it can be an enormous waste of time.

Image result for facebook image

Do you suffer manipulation and loss of privacy?

Facebook has been known to toy with our minds. A few years ago, it was caught manipulating the news feeds of 600,000 users to see how they would act in response to negative versus positive news. The corporation is developing a brain-computer interface, so a user could control his computer with his mind- but Facebook could as easily use the interface to influence the user’s mind. And the company recently faced a firestorm of criticism over Cambridge Analytica’s mining of user data.

To  be fair, the Trump campaign was not the first to mine Facebook user data to enhance voter turnout. Mr. Obama used it far more extensively- in both of his Presidential campaigns.

Regardless of who benefits, a Facebook account brings serious problems. You can’t very well be active on the platform without sacrificing privacy. The more we learn, the wiser it seems to unplug Facebook.

What can you do about it?

How can you do it, though? You don’t want to lose touch with friends and loved ones. You want a means to communicate your concerns to a large body of readers. Are there other social media platforms that will meet this purpose? Can you use them without the privacy losses you court with Facebook?

There are several alternate social platforms that may meet your need. Which one is best for you depends on what you want to do with it.

Some of the other platforms that may suit you are Wayn, Steemit, Dribbble, Mastodon, and Mighty Networks. In a future post, we will analyze the advantages and limitations of each.  You then can unplug Facebook, confident that you’re not dooming yourself to social isolation.


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How can you protect your anonymity online?

A famous New Yorker cartoon from the dawn of the internet age features two dogs at a computer. One says to the other: “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” On the web, anonymity was virtually guaranteed.

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Those canines might not be so confident about online privacy now. With each passing month, we get more disquieting news that others are spying on our web traffic. It was governments at first. But in the last few years we have learned that Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook have been tracking our web usage so they can show us targeted ads. Trolls and stalkers have learned how to find the real identities behind user names we adopt for online comments.

Does this mean we should abandon hope for online anonymity? If we want to maintain our privacy, do we have to stay off of the internet?

In truth, there is only one guarantee of absolute anonymity. We’d have to stay offline entirely.

Short of this, we’re taking on some risk. Still, there are several ways to hold our odds of exposure and I D theft to a bare minimum. I will cover two of them here:

TOR, Proxies, and VPNs

One of the most effective ways to mask identity and location is to appear to be someone else at a different location. For this, you’ll need a virtual private network (VPN) or a proxy server. Not only can they mask your identity, they can enable surfing in other countries like the natives.

VPN services are easy to find. They protect traffic between your computer and internet servers, and they will mask your IP location and address. Suppose that , while working from home, you connect through your employer’s VPN. Websites will track your activity to corporate headquarters, not to your home.

For more advanced security, you may want a proxy server, a computer that redirects your web traffic. Like a VPN, it will mask your IP address. The proxy server also caches internet requests and responses, which will speed connection for your return visits to your favorite sites.

TOR is sometimes called ‘the onion router’ for its multiple layers of protection for anonymity. It provides a network of routes for data requests and downloads.

A few years ago, Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had been spying on web traffic, giving special attention to TOR. But the NSA was only able to monitor its ‘exit nodes’. The agency could track what TOR was being used for, but couldn’t identify users.

Browser Security

How do you know your browser isn’t informing on you? Some, most notably Google Chrome, have been especially aggressive in tracking user traffic. Usually, the purpose of vacuuming up this data is advertising. You can’t be sure, though, that your web footprint will never be used for more sinister purposes. Since Google and Facebook have been caught censoring information for political reasons, it pays to be careful.

You can block your browsers ability to store your passwords. Of course, this can be inconvenient, since you probably have a separate password for each web service you use. A password manager can cache your passwords so you don’t have to remember them. Some password managers are free.

You could also activate your browser’s anonymous surfing mode. For Microsoft’s Explorer and Edge, it’s called In Private. For Firefox, it’s called Private Browsing, and for Chrome, it’s called Incognito. Activating the anonymous mode will block the browser from keeping records of websites you visit, your downloads, cookies, passwords, and cached material. Your browser may also offer a Do Not Track option in its settings bar. If it does, you’d be wise to activate it.

Anonymity through Browser Choice

Some browsers are better than others at protecting user anonymity.

Google is notorious for vacuuming up user data for use in targeted advertising. Bing and Yahoo also are aggressive in collecting user data.

Comodo Dragon, Comodo IceDragon, and Epic use Google’s Chromium rendering engine, but they don’t share user information with Google. DuckDuckGo, Brave, and Opera do not use Google, Bing, or Yahoo search engines. They don’t track your web usage or sell your data.

Stealth modes and specialized browsers won’t provide perfect web security. But they can keep websites from sending unrequested info to your computer, info that other sites can read to discern your surfing habits.

More to Come…

There are other steps you can take to protect your anonymity online. We will spell out these additional steps in another post.


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