Pretty Great Privacy

I tell you, it will be awesome.  You won’t believe how awesome it will be.

Trump just unleashed the hounds on us. “They”, our ISP’s, can now take and sell our internet access metadata. What we’ve visited, what we spent time on, what we clicked. And yet, we PAY for that access, that’s pretty galling, right? That evil ISP of yours can spy on you and find your shopping habits and your preference for light linen suits over dark suits… and forward it to God-Knows-Whom with some supersecret FISA court order, and next thing you know you’re getting spammed with subpoenas for violating the Verbal Morality Statute[1] or some other knucklehead law[2] the future (or present) congress passes regarding leisure suits or turtlenecks. Oh, the horror.

But they’ve been doing this since 2005. Unless you just discovered the Internet yesterday, your preferences have already been scraped and collected. As they say, that particular horse left the barn already in the mid 2000’s.  But wait, it gets even better (bigly, dare I say?).

More Evil

So of course Google and Yahoo and Netflix track your habits, activities, and preferences in a ginormous database via cookies and your history with interacting with those services. And some of them serve you ads “Half off a linen seersucker suit! Buy Now!” A growing number of people consider that pretty evil — and use ad-blockers, but a large majority accept this in exchange for a valuable and free (to them) service, such as Google search.

True Evil

Now if you think that’s evil, let’s explore what Google and Apple are doing *right now* as you’re reading this on your smartphone.

You smartphone is collecting data about all the Wifi networks it finds as you’re strolling and driving around with it in your pocket. This is ostensibly done so that if you want to use your phone and a free Wifi access point is available, you unlock your phone, and magically, you’re on the (faster) internet. Here’s the punchline — what’s actually evil is that unbeknownst to you, every few minutes your beloved smartphone is transmitting all that collected wifi access point data (locations, names, SSIDs, access policies) back to the mothership. Android phone? It all goes back to Google. iPhone? It all goes back to Apple.  From there, of course, it goes into another ginormous database.[3][4]

Now you might think to yourself, “well, that’s OTHER people’s information, not mine, so why do I care?” If you want to find the biggest spy — look at yourself in the mirror. That smartphone you carry is spying on everyone’s networks whether you like it or not.

On the Other Side of the Looking Glass

In my location, we have at least 10 Wifi access points, all sqwuaking SSIDs. So everytime someone drives by, Google and/or Apple is getting an update as to my network status! To be clear — I’m not running a bitcoin boilerplate widows-and-orphans-cold-calling scheme from the basement or anything nefarious like that, but this certainly gives me “the skeeves”. What to do? There IS actually a way, that you, as a Wifi access point owner or administrator, can prevent this from happening.

Turn if off by adding to your Wifi access point SSID the suffix “_nomap”[5]. Good luck Googling that! (They don’t have a “sponsored link” highlighting this fact.) I think this is backwards — there should be an opt-IN called “_mapme”, instead of the other way around.

And if you’re concerned about ISP’s spying on you, you can always use a VPN like HideMyAss or a service like Tor (if you’re REALLY paranoid).  However, even with a VPN Google will still always have your number and history when you visit their site.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rVQGT01Kzg

[2] http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/the-drone-privacy-and-transparency-act-42426/

[3] https://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/22/google_android_privacy_concerns/

[4] https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/09/12/turn_off_location_services_go_ahead_says_google_well_still_track_you/

[5] http://www.ghacks.net/2014/10/29/add-_nomap-to-your-routers-ssid-to-have-it-ignored-by-google-and-mozilla/

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~ by opticalflow on March 31, 2017.

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