Let’s face it. If you’re online, then you’re being tracked. Yes, you can minimize the tracking, and that impacts how much data gets collected about you and used against you, but it’s a war you cannot win.
Why you get tracked when you’re online has an easy answer. Money. All that collected data makes money for Google, Facebook, the applications you use, and the websites you visit. The wheels of earthlings are greased by commerce, and tracking you is part of the equation. What else?
Stop? Or, Minimize?
Can you stop online trackers? Yes. By going offline, off the grid, refusing to use electricity or credit cards, and by learning to live off the land. Yes, A Country Boy Can Survive with the internet and typical human activity.
Do you really want to shoot your own game and grow your own food just to keep Google and Facebook from tracking you and building a dossier about your online habits?
How was your day? Ren LaForme:
You woke up. Walked to the bathroom. Drove to work. Maybe left for a doctor’s visit. Snuck in some fast food on the way back. Drove home. Took your kid to an after-school activity, or went on a date, or put in an hour at the gym.
Seems to be somewhat normal for those us who live in the 21st century. Would you keep a detailed list of all your daily activities? And then share that list with someone who wanted to sell something to you?
No. Yet, when you’re online, that’s exactly what happens.
Let me give you an example. Last week Kate and I were discussing a new diet that a friend of ours had just started. The Keto Diet. Now, neither of us knew much about the Keto Diet and when we’re faced with a need to learn, what do we do? Google it, right? So, we both Googled “keto” and “ketogenic” and “keto diet” and read through half a dozen different search results.
Remember, when you’re online, your activities are being tracked and recorded. Guess what happened? Within two days each of us had received half a dozen email spam regarding Keto Diets. As we browsed elsewhere online, we were treated to a number of Keto Diet advertisements.
How did those websites that have information about Keto Diets or sell various diet products know that Kate and I were searching for Keto Diet information? Google, Facebook, websites, and applications gather data while you’re online, sell and trade that information to others, and far more entities than you realize are building a personal dossier about each of us.
That data doesn’t include any identifying information about you, it isn’t actually anonymous. Employees of these companies or their clients can easily follow patterns — where someone sleeps, where they go to work every day — to determine the identity of the person behind the data.
If you’re online, you’re being used and abused by a growing collective of online entities that cull private and personal information and use it, sell it, combine it with information collected elsewhere– merely to build a profile (dossier) about you and your activities.
So, we conducted a test. Instead of using Google and our local Wi-Fi (home, office, Starbucks, elsewhere– it doesn’t matter) we used DuckDuckGo to do the search, and a VPN to keep our online presence more anonymized. Our search was not about Keto Diet. Instead, we searched for rubber boots. First, on DuckDuckGo, then on Amazon and other retailers (while the VPN ran in the background).
Had that been a Google search, over the next few days we should have received both spam messages and various advertisements about rubber boots. We did not. Not from spammers. Not from Amazon. Not from advertisers. That tells me that just using a VPN helps to cut down some of the tracking.
Just remember a few basics of life in the 21st century.
- Everybody wants your money – we live in a capitalist world
- Paranoia is a good attitude – especially if everyone is out to get you
- We’re being tracked online because of money – Google, Facebook, advertisers
The only way to avoid such tracking is to go off the grid. If that’s not an acceptable alternative and you still want to minimize such trackers and their ilk, use a VPN, don’t use Google or Facebook, avoid apps that have built-in analytics and trackers (Little Snitch helps), and recognize that most of those trackers already have a rather detailed dossier about you anyway.