What goes up, must come down. Facebook flew high above radar operated by common folk for years but the toothpaste is out of the tube, the milk and the beans have spilled, the cat is out of the bag. Facebook grew rich and fat in a very short period of time by gaining a few billion users despite intense efforts to stalk and track those who gave them the privilege.
What goes around, comes around, folks. Perhaps Facebook’s high profile problems and misdeeds will make online users more careful about where they assign their privacy.
Can you stop this ongoing scourge of online trackers?
Get offline. Go off the grid. Buy some land in northern Canada, take some solar panels with you, go all in on cash, and don’t communicate with the rest of humankind. Even then you don’t have assurance that someone somewhere can track you.
If that offline, off the grid method does not entice you– I’m somewhat paranoid and I don’t want that extreme, either– there are alternatives but they require discipline, effort, consideration, and deeply ingrained habits.
A Russian spy forgot to use his VPN once and left a Russia-based IP address that authorities could track. Things happen.
While I don’t advocate leaving social media entirely; Facebook included– everyone has a different need– there are options to help minimize our online presence.
First, use a VPN. The right virtual private network will make your device more nearly anonymous while you browse the interwebs. If you don’t want to be tracked by major stalkers, avoid using Google and Amazon. Both track you as you move from website to website, collect data about which websites and articles you visit and read, and use that data against you– to sell you more goods– or for political influence.
Yes, that’s exactly what happened with the information Cambridge Analytica purchased from Facebook. Advertising is designed to persuade. That’s the nature of the business. Unfortunately, the interwebs remains an advertising-focused medium where tracking and stalking are easy and prey are easier to follow.
Second, if you use Facebook and other social media, remember that you’re part of their product. That’s why what you get is free. You can minimize Facebook’s information about you through their arcane settings, but the only way to avoid Facebook tracking is to quit it entirely.
Third, be aware that email messages are inherently insecure. Malware bots scour infected PCs across the land, grab contact information and email addresses, and use what they find to send spam messages even if you’re using a Mac.
Fifth, use Little Snitch. Even applications on your Mac are phoning home; some to Google, many to locations you will not recognize. Little Snitch can stop them. Choose wisely.
Sixth, use a Google alternative. I don’t like DuckDuckGo’s search results as much as Google, but tracking is minimized and advertisers are not part of the tracking equation. Ditto for Gmail. Google, like Facebook, is a tracking machine and you are the prey.
There are more options but those are the easiest and fastest to implement.