Intro

Randy covers some very easy measures you can take to better your internet experience.

Announcements

  • Got married.
  • Honeymoon trip to Spain and Paris was a dream.
  • Back to work

“It’s crazy. I was searching for ‘X Product’ online and, minutes later, I see advertisements in my Facebook feed. This is Ridiculous!”.

  • Maybe it’s because I work in tech that I hear this shocker from different people, but I hear it all of the time.
    • There are tracker networks all over the internet.
      • Gabriel Weinberg of “DuckDuckGo” explains it best, regarding how companies embed trackers in their website code. Heck, my WordPress site has it embedded because I was required by Google to install it in order to monetize my site with Ads.
        • The point where it gets kind of creepy is that Google is tracking users ACROSS different sites, whilst building a data profile on you. Sure, it’s information that you’ve provided to the sites at some point, but it’s still creepy and kind of annoying to know that it’s happening. The main intention is not necessarily “Spying” on you, but to track habits – to likely complete some sales on your consumer ass. I like to buy stuff. I’m sure, during all of my years of web surfing, I was advertised to and couldn’t turn down an ad, like a fresh plate of crispy bacon – yum, yum.
  • Which companies are the worst offenders of tracking us across different websites?
    • Before I reveal the (probably-obvious) worst offenders for tracking us across the web, I’d like to point out a link I’d like for you to check out.
      • Princeton.edu did a crawl of 53,000 Product pages, across 11k Shopping Websites to find things that are considered “Dark Patterns”. Dark Patterns, put simply, are user interface design choices that are designed to trick our hamster asses into eating the cheese. A link to the site is here. There is a PDF at the link I’ve provided, but I can save you some reading if you’d like and give you an example of just one of the dark patterns (or deceptions). One example would be a company sneaking a product into your shopping cart from the time you’re heading to your shopping cart to checkout. This study recorded deceptive acts like that across all websites. They even screenshot and documented every step and page change during the study.
      • Page 13 of the study, in particular, breaks down the different types of Dark Patterns measured. The study directly calls out some offender sites such as chicwish.com, where they posted in red lettering ” sale will end soon”, with no actual time or day when the alleged sale will end. These things are easy to miss, but it’s shady business, or dishonest in the least.
      • Bonus: I bet just about anyone listening to this episode has seen the dark pattern where the website gives you the shaming popup “Yes, I’d like to add this to my cart today to save 25% / No, I’d like to pay full price”. Kiss. My. Ass.
  • Conclusion: We’ll never be able to fully-avoid these Dark Patterns, but awareness doesn’t hurt. I feel we can all help one another to fog out these rodents which, inevitably, means they’re going to look for other deceptive ways to take advantage of people.

What Else Can be Done for my Privacy Online?

  • A couple of episodes back, Episode 24, I covered VPNs. While I’m not a huge user of VPNs, I still think they can have their benefits. In that Episode, I also more or less concluded that you can never fully avoid being tracked. However, there is more you can do to be tracked less. This recommendation is going to be based on lessening the amount of tracking across companies’ websites.
    • Use a Browser that doesn’t make money off the very thing you’re trying to avoid. The Chrome Browser is made by Google. Google makes money off tracking you and selling ads. Why in the heck would they want to help you? They’re not your friend here. A browser that is known to be pretty darn trustworthy, would be a browser such as Vivaldi (who is actually not trying to prevent their users from Blocking ads).
      • Long story short, Google did something lame, and you can read about it on Vivaldi’s site: https://vivaldi.com/blog/chromium-ad-blockers-choice/
        • Google is phasing out a webrequest API, that basically breaks functionality of ad blockers that have long worked in the chrome browser. I’ll go ahead and say that I’ve been a long-time Google fan boy, but when companies do something that really isn’t for its users, it’s just uncool. Vivaldi wants their users to have a choice of what their browser can and cannot do, and I think people deserve much more privacy across the web than they are getting with Google’s browser.
          • I think we can all survive in an honest market. For example, if we throw a referral link to one another, we can just give a heads up: “Hey, please support my site by purchasing through this referral link..it doesn’t cost you more, but I will get a small percentage of your purchase to help my site continue operating”…something along those lines.
  • Use DuckDuckGo Search engine. They pride themselves on NOT tracking you. It works really well. The only problem for me is, I forget to use it all of the time because I’m so used to using Google. It’s hard to drop convenience. It’s totally worth a shot to try using it though. Here’s a link I’ll include where DuckDuckGo gives you the bullet points on how you can help encourage others to avoid being tracked: https://duckduckgo.com/spread

I think a killer concoction could be using the Chrome Browser with the DuckDuckGo plugin. The DuckDuckGo extension for Chrome basically blocks Facebook and Google hidden trackers. The extension also forces sites to use an encrypted connection when available.

Or, the Vivaldi browser, with DuckDuckGo set as your home page is something else that could work well. Even though Chrome appears that it can be tweaked by adding these secure extensions, I can’t say I can trust Google 100% in the way the browser was compiled down to every line of code. Anything could be going on there, and I’d never know because Chrome is like a proprietary version of the open source Chromium, but contains more proprietary abilities, such as more codec playback and the ability to auto-update.

With an Open source piece of software, you can disassemble the software down to every line of code to see what it’s made of. Am I going to do that? NO! I’m too lazy to get into that type of geekery. But it’s good to know that Open Source software has that transparency – it’s just honest!

Something else you may not know about DuckDuckGo is that their site explains things very well. They have a page here: https://spreadprivacy.com/protection-from-isp-spying/ that explains how an ISP can spy on you and which types of pages they can typically see. They write it in an easy-to-understand explanation too.

See you on the Duck Side! That sounds cool. I don’t watch Star Wars.

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