Only the paranoid are truly alone

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A common misconception of the first amendment is your constitutional right to freedom of speech applies in all situations. These jerks live a backwards life thinking they can be as crass as they wish, wherever they desire; be it their job, in public, or even church there will be no repercussions they live filter-free. Now in terms of legal trouble they're almost free and clear, but socially, civilly, and vocationally life tends to straighten them out right quick. A similar delusion is found with the fourth amendment; our constitutional protection from illegal search and seizure, which many hold as our right to privacy. The problem is you forfeit that right when you willingly hand over your property, or in terms of tech your data.

If you are on Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, or simply use any of the popular web browsers, you have signed over your privacy. Beyond the mystifying terms and conditions that everyone lies about reading before accepting a digital service, all major digital services pilfer your web browsing history; not stopping there they also browse your chats, tweets, snaps, emails, and messages. This is not only the norm, it is the way the internet knows what you may want to purchase, share, read, listen to, and watch.

It is dumbfounding how many people don’t understand their web browser keeps tabs on their every click and site visit, but worse yet, so many more don’t realize your browser is giving that information to practically every site you visit. The most blatant offenders are Google and Amazon. Advertising is the lifeblood of the internet and the biggest blood banks are easily Google and Amazon. Ever wonder why moments after you close an Amazon browser tab, your other tabs start showing products you were searching for on Amazon? That’s because sites like Facebook partner with Amazon and Google to sell advertising space. Amazon advertises for products and services you can purchase on its site. Google advertises for everything; sites, services, products, nonprofits, competitors, and basically anyone who is willing to pay their rate.

Some might think Amazon and Google ads are providing a service; connecting consumers with goods and services they may want to buy, others might think your trail of website visits is no one else’s business. If you’re in the later camp there is a solution to prying digital eyes; it’s called “Do Not Track.” While not a legal mandate, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorers and nearly all modern browsers incorporate a do not track feature that tells the browser and individual websites to stay out of your browsing history as well as not following your web habits while not on their sites. Still seeing as websites are generally part of a business, do not track is not always followed.

For real fourth amendment, privacy nuts you need encryption. True security online means disguising your data while it’s floating through internet so only you and the party you intend to share it with can see it; encryption and decryption allow for this. To be this safe, a browser like Tor or a messaging service like Signal are the only way to go. Signal and Tor conceal all user activity, web history, data, and communications, as well as discard all your personal data when you are done using either services. The downside is these tools can be quite cumbersome when trying to casually visit favorite sites or keep track of correspondence as no passwords or chat history is ever retained.

Could Signal and Tor be considered overkill? Sure, but you should know it's not only your web habits that are being perused. Vizio was just slapped with a $2 million penalty by the federal government for recording and selling viewers TV habits. Can anyone truly feel secure if our TVs are selling us out?

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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