What is internet privacy and why it matters

What is Internet Privacy?

Privacy is a construct that information that belongs to you is exclusive to you unless shared by you. The quickest example is anything that has happened in your personal life. Unless you share that with people, the information is yours to know. Privacy also means that ownership of personal information must remain to the person to which it belongs.

Internet privacy means that data that belongs to you must not be extracted or shared with a third party without your consent. In recent years, this idea has thankfully gained prominence as privacy scandals have invited public scrutiny. You need to have a clear idea about why privacy matters and what you can do to protect your privacy on the internet.

Why Privacy Matters

There are more digital services today than ever before. And they are fighting for your attention. To achieve that, they need to know what catches your interest. Facebook learns about your habits as you use the social media platform; what pages you like, what posts you react to, what your friends like. Facebook even learns about you on other websites through cross-site tracking. 

All of this effort is to ensure that it can market the right ads to you. It’s a huge business that accounts for more than 95% of Facebook’s revenue. Similarly, Google’s advertising business is centered around creating profiles that it can offer to customers for targeted advertisement. 

Such data collection is often not part of user consent. And that’s one of the reasons why these companies are facing public scrutiny. It’s not just about data collection but also the ability to keep that data safe that is part of the discussions. 

Governments Spy on Citizens

Online services aside, if there’s one entity that supersedes any oversight, it’s the government. Authoritarian governments curb freedom of speech or anything that goes against the official narrative. Under the excuse of national security, governments have created mass surveillance systems that keep track of internet and cellular data. 

In the USA, the NSA has a backdoor to internet service providers. Service providers have to abide by the government’s directive to log and maintain a history of user activity. These are not conspiracy theories. Ex-NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, revealed in 2013, the NSA was collecting data of millions of Verizon users. The report by The Guardian was just one of the series of revelations that went onto prove what privacy advocates have long said. 

China is notorious for mass surveillance. The Great Firewall of China is a national firewall that controls internet traffic in the country. You would be surprised to learn how many websites are inaccessible in China, even encyclopedia like Wikipedia. The state uses its massive network of cameras for the genocide of Uighur Muslims, placing them in detention camps for indoctrination. 

Similarly, the United Kingdom taps into the fiber optic cables to sniff on internet and telecommunication data running in and out of the country. The Tempora surveillance program is breaching user privacy without the knowledge and consent of the citizens of the UK.

How to Protect Privacy on the Internet

While governments control the central points through which communication flows, digital platforms utilize several ways to gain access to your data. Whether it’s an app secretly harvesting data or advertisers using cookies and tracking pixels, you need to know how to protect privacy on the internet. 

  • Virtual Private Network

Governments don’t like VPN services because they encrypt communication, preventing them from tracking activities. Normally, every internet is handled by the ISP, but that changes when you connect to a VPN server. Data is encrypted and sent to the VPN server, which could be in a different country. 

Encryption is a powerful tool that prevents data theft and surveillance. iProVPN encrypts using AES 256-bit encryption standard for the best protection. Once you connect to iProVPN’s server, your ISP will not be able to intercept the data, which includes what websites you visit. 

  • End-to-End Encryption

What if there was a way to ensure that no one except you and the recipient can read a message? End-to-end encryption takes care of that. It uses public-key encryption to encrypt data, making it impossible for anyone other than the receiver to read it through a special key. 

The sender encrypts data using the recipient’s public key. And once encrypted, it can only be decrypted with the recipient’s private key. 

Switch to secure messaging apps for communication. But having end-to-end encryption is not enough; the service must have a good track record regarding privacy-friendly policies. 

  • Anti-Tracking Web Browsers

Web browsers today have a feature that disables cross-site trackers. These trackers are how advertisers know what you look up on the web. Ever searched for something on a website only to find ads on that on Facebook? That’s cross-site tracking in play. 

Safari, Firefox, Edge give you the option to send a Do Not Track request.  

  • Secure Email Providers

Did you know that advertisers may be reading your Gmail inbox? Switching to secure email providers can ensure that only you can access your inbox. Services such as Tutanota give you a great degree of confidence that your emails are secure and private. 

You can also send anonymous emails to hide your email address. 

  • Secure Wi-Fi

In addition to using a strong password on your Wi-Fi, avoid connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Open Wi-Fi is dangerous because it does not provide encryption. Moreover, it’s easy for a hacker to set up a rogue Wi-Fi access point in places such as cafes and malls and launch a Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack. 

Use a VPN on public Wi-Fi. Your internet traffic will always remain encrypted. 

Paid VPN vs. Free VPN vs. Free Proxy

Free VPNs and proxies do not offer the same level of features or can guarantee privacy. Free services look attractive but understand the business model and things get a lot less exciting. Free VPN and proxy services log every activity then sell the data to advertisers to make money. It is how they stay operating without charging you a dime. 

iProVPN guarantees that your web activity will never be tracked or recorded. You get access to the complete list of VPN servers, which is something that free VPN and proxy services cannot offer — not to the same level. 

Conclusion

Digital platforms have made lives better. We do not propose that you stop using them. But at the same time, be mindful of what you share on the internet and what apps you use.


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