“Arguing that you don’t care about privacy becuase you have nothing to hide is no difference than saying you don’t care about free speech becaue you have nothing to say.” – Edward Snowden.
Why privacy matter?
We passed from the age of physical copy of our data to the digitized form of our personal data. Gone are the days, when the system holding our data was offline or isolated. We are now ruled in the surveillance states where our personal information is scattered everywhere and on top of that, the big tech corp can now access all our personal data.
You can argue why should I care if the government takes my data since I have not committed any crime, or what if any other corporates have access to my data.
But, what if I say, your everyday activity is tracked, your phone conversation with your girlfriend, you evening chat with your foreign friend in messenger, the time you woke up, the time you went to shopping, the things that you bought, every route of your travel, where you stayed last night, where do you visit most often, when and where you dine – all stored in a remote server in a foreign country.
Facebook can sell your data and use you as bait for a political campaign and brainwash you with one side of the story or one form of political view.
Do you still not care?
Does any entity have the right to track and store your every activity? Can single entities like Google, Facebook, and Apple have so much power?
We have just become the stooge of their advertisement business.
When Alexa knows how you are feeling today and bombard you with the related advertisements in Amazon shopping.
When Uber knows when your phone is running out of battery? then, jack up the price when you are desperate for a ride.
When an insurance company wants to know about your Fitbit data so that it can make more money.
When Facebook has become the permanent data storage facility for all your personal data. These folks do know how to ponder your data and use you as a pawn for advertisement business. Look at the “Cambridge Analytica-gate” case.
Do you know how much the US government spends on data harvesting and collection only? More than 20 billion dollars- ‘a non-finance major’ even can determine the amount of returns for that kind of investment.
Can you still secure your privacy?
One weakness of modern technological devices is ‘power’ – Yes, electric power, if the equipment has no power, no more remote connection, no more DoS, no more brute forces, no more ‘life’- System is virtually dead.
But look at smartphones we have nowadays, you cannot take off the battery, you don’t know if, it is completely shut down or not. Smartphones have become the prime source of data leakage.
There are so many ways your personal data can be leaked online.
If you have a habit of reusing the password in every platform, just get rid of it, Have you ever checked if your email been exposed online, just search for your email here: https://haveibeenpwned.com/
Better use password managers that allow you to generate random code and passphrase, that are more complex and also helps to store the passwords privately and even offline.
Simple information like your screen size can reveal big info like, which model of the device you are using, the type of browser you are using, etc.
Anonymity and privacy are two separate things.
If you are looking for anonymity, I cannot give a perfect answer. The Linux based OS likes Whonix and Tails are said to provide complete anonymity. You may try the Tor onion browser, but, you can still be recognized analyzing the exit nodes and also analysis of the entry node.
You can still be anonymized by 3 letter agencies with the help of their vast pool of resources if they are ready to spend their resources on you.
But, I can assure you that, as the number of people using the Tor network increases, the secure it becomes making it harder for deanonymization.
For many years ISPs have been collecting and selling your data without your permission. Any DNS traffic from your browser is analyzed and site logs are recorded. VPN service is recommended for such type of on-route eavesdropping. However, you need to ensure that your VPN service provider is still not leaking your DNS requests: https://ipleak.net/
Do you know why google is free, because it has another way of money-making, collecting your data and shoot you with their Ads based upon your search behavior?
You can get rid of google search, instead use duckduckgo, that neither track your browsing nor store your personal information.
For a browser, you can choose open source browsers like Firefox and Brave – that block any type of website tracking. And for almost complete anonymity, you can try Tor (compromising your browsing speed).
What if you want to completely get rid of google services from your android phone knowing that Google is tracking your phone even when airplane mode is enabled: https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/7811918/google-is-tracking-you-even-with-airplane-mode-turned-on/
Since Android itself is open source and google android is based upon that open source code, you can get rid of all Google services using android custom ROM(AOSP). Do some research, you can pretty much get rid of all the Google services from your phone, like Guardian Project.
Or you can go for ubuntu phone: Linux phone(Ubuntu phone) is guaranteed to have no tracking but not having the essential app is a deal-breaker. What if you are not a fan of google, but still want to browse youtube, there is an app called NewPipe that you might want to try. NewPipe does not use the official YouTube API, but instead scrapes the website for video and meta-data (such as likes, dislikes, and views). This is done intentionally to decrease the amount of data shared with Google.
For email services and message service, I recommend using the providers that offer end to end encryption. HushMail and ProtonMail could be better options.
We are always emphasized to use open-source software. The most important aspect of open source is that the code is public and people can point out the flaws in the application. Thus, always support these sort of opensource projects.
Last but not the least, the road to privacy is intricating and full of obstacles. Hacking has become a 300 billion dollar industry. From government to hackers, everyone is trying to get hold of our data. We need to ensure that we are not part of “surveillance capitalism”.They call it “data is the new oil” and try to label it as a commodity, but it’s our right and we have an obligation to preserve our rights.