The “Online Privacy Bill of Rights” Head Fake & 4 Ways to Protect Yourself

| March 1, 2012 | Be first to comment

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Guest Blog Post Written by Marc Stelzer

Internet privacy issues are so scary and the remedies so annoying that they naturally lead to procrastination. Kind of like preparing  for a family Thanksgiving dinner… during a hurricane.

You may be heartened by developments like the White House’s Blueprint for a “Privacy Bill of Rights” to Protect Consumers Online  or even the European-styled online privacy protections influencing the debate over the trading of “anonymous profile data.”

Are you being tracked onlineEven amidst these positive developments, when PR flacks start hawking fluff pieces about how “Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL have all expressed support for this initiative that aims to give individuals greater online privacy protection” you know its time to toss your cookies and keep a close eye on your google wallet. Especially in the same month that Google and others have finally been exposed taking advantage of the not-so-secret browser privacy circumvention hacks used throughout the industry in order to supposedly “use known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled” to track these users, especially on their iPhones. Cookies aren’t just for kids anymore.  And the voluntary no track button has long been available and won’t be so much as a speed bump to the data profiling hordes.

Forget it. As if any government is actually willing or capable of securing your rights from highly motivated, technically advanced, well incentivized, vertically integrated data mining operations away from your keyboard. And the players (large and small) will gladly continue to pay lip service to the issues surrounding “internet privacy” so long as the consuming public has to perform the digital equivalent of a brake liner test on a moving automobile every time they log on to their computer to truly secure their privacy. If you think this is overblown rhetoric, read up on what actual privacy hawks  are formally petitioning the FTC about.

Fortunately for us all, the resources needed to solve sleep loss over the issues and take back the control levers of personal web privacy are readily available and not as difficult to implement as your inner procrastinator would have led you to believe.

1. Remove your Google History ASAP…even if the magic March 1st date is passed!! Bonus: support the EFF while you are visiting.

2. Then look at tools that limit Facebook privacy intrusions  and understand what is actually going on…and why you should care. Try this for a more advanced treatment for icing Facebook, Google+, and Twitter tracking. 

3. Next thing to look at is cleaning up and opting out of data tracking as well as reviewing this great list on busting your filter bubble. Bonus: Item 10 gives you way to tell Congress that you ACTUALLY DO CARE about online privacy and don’t intend to be treated like a piece of digital meat.

4. *Finally – and maybe most importantly -  install some simple, yet powerful, browser tools that will actually help you stop the tracking  and overcome the feeling of powerlessness that the entire topic evokes. The most serious minded may wish to utilize the TOR Project’s powerful anonymizing tools.

These types of tools have come a very long way, are super helpful and won’t slow down your browsing speed as in the past. Better yet, they enable an install-and-forget-about-it solution to privacy protection by automating the vigilance required to keep your browsing information out of the hands of aggregators and data miners. Now if they could just come up with a plan to keep my family from arguing through the turkey dinner.

 For further reading on this topic, take a look at this thought provoking article on the history of privacy .


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