Who is following you on the Internet and what can be done about it?
Here’s everything you need to know.
Internet service providers, browsers, data brokers or people, organizations, and programs can all track what every Internet user does. It is not always illegal: the objective of data collection could be advertising or study.
New types of Internet surveillance protection are continually being created and applied (even legally: for example, in Europe, the General Regulation for the Protection of Personal Data – GDPR -), but universal solutions do not yet exist.
You’ve definitely seen these “coincidences” on the Internet before: you go to a car dealership’s website, and then they show you automobile advertising all over the place. Alternatively, after browsing the parent website, you become preoccupied with advertisements for diapers and infant formula.
All of this is possible because the main advertising networks and many other Internet information gathering services (“data brokers “) are attempting to create the most complete image of each Internet user based on a wide range of data, which is frequently open. They almost always do.
On the Internet, anyone can track you, both legally and illegally, in violation of your right to privacy. It is difficult to defend yourself from some forms of surveillance, but it is crucial in others. Even if you are fully prepared to combat it, keep in mind that you will only be able to evade Internet surveillance if you physically unplug from Network access. And that is not true.
Your Internet service provider or mobile carrier assigns a unique IP address to a network-connected device each time you use it to connect (computer, smartphone, tablet). It can be utilized by a single device or by numerous devices at the same time.
But the essential point is that device users may easily match a physical address, passport details, bank account numbers, and so on. Except when using a public Internet connection, such as a WiFi hotspot in a coffee shop.
Technically, providers can see whatever you send unencrypted over the Internet. That is why it is important to use sites with a secure connection (https) or VPN services. VPN stands for virtual private network, and it allows the same access to the Internet via an encrypted communication route to protect against external “wiretaps.”
It’s vital to remember that this does not give complete security: merely entrust your data to another organization, frequently in another nation. Experienced users can host their own VPN server and become their own “VPN provider,” reducing some of the hazards.
In this situation, however, the hosting provider where you would host the VPN server will already have open communications.
All telecommunications companies are obligated by law to collaborate with law enforcement authorities during investigations, including providing them with access to user data and, on occasion, assisting them in gaining access to secure communications.
Although robust encryption significantly complicates Internet surveillance, the server address is typically delivered unencrypted at first: this is required to exchange keys and establish a secure connection. And this adds to the vulnerability: in order to access sensitive information, it is frequently not so crucial what it communicates as it is where or from where it transmits.
When compared to other information available to your providers, connection data and related information (“metadata”) will allow you to learn a lot about yourself even if you do not have access to your encrypted data.
How do you fight? You’re unlikely to be fully safe from provider surveillance, but it can be difficult if you utilize encrypted connections, VPNs, guest Internet access, pirate proxy servers (to conceal your IP address), the anonymous Tor network, and other similar services.