So what about internet privacy and being anonymous.
My main browser is Google Chrome, and on machines I regularly use I have it set up so things like my bookmarks automatically come up. I also use YouTube, Google calendar and various other Google services, so I know (and accept) that Google is ‘watching me’. I’m happy enough (realistic enough) to accept that my level of internet privacy is rather limited.
I also use Firefox, occasionally Opera, and very occasionally Internet Explorer – usually just for those sites that insist on only working with IE (almost always work related ones that I can’t avoid).
When it comes to searching, then it’s usually Google. Occasionally I’ll try Bing or Yahoo, not for any special reason other than as something different for a change. They do actually throw up quite different results – try searching for your own name and see the different number of hits they show.
Early Saturday afternoon and it’s time to head into the city. A couple of places I wanted to go to so a quick internet search to remind me of their locations. However rather than search through Google I thought I’d try using ixquick (which claims to be the world’s most private search engine). I’d heard of it and was curious to see how it performed, which was exactly as expected. It threw up a page of sensible responses, and even from the couple of lines displayed against each of the results I could see enough of an address to remind me where these places were.
What surprised me was that ten minutes later when I picked up my (Android) phone was to see a message from Google giving me directions to one of the places I’d searched for through this ‘private’ search engine.
What I suspect had happened was that browsers often automatically start to download any links that are on the page being looking at, so if you then click on the link that new page will appear so much more quickly. On my search page one of those links will have been a Google Maps page, Google will have recognised the machine this request came from and promptly, being extra-clever (!!!), sent to my Android / Google powered phone instructions on how to get there.
There’s more to keeping yourself private on the internet than people realise!
As we use the internet, how seriously do we take our data security?
I’ve been using the internet now for over 20 years. My first real experience involved a friend taking me off to some Unix computers to look at a collection of amazing planet / space images he’d found from (I think) NASA. This was not using a web browser (this was just as the web was starting to get noticed, my first web browsing experience was about 3 months later) but through Gopher space. However even prior to this I’d been playing around with computers for some time.
So over all these 20+ years of computer usage I’ve been infected three times by viruses, the last one about six years ago. However yesterday was the first time I’ve actually had one of my services (Twitter) hacked into. This did get me thinking a bit about control, and about how much I now have (or don’t have) over my information when actually using the computer in front of me. Even now, I’m not writing this on a word processor on my machine, but using Evernote, which automatically saves this to a server somewhere out on the internet! I’m currently using Macs, often hyped for their resilience against viruses, I also keep my software up to date with the latest patches and fixes, yet this did not stop my Twitter from being despoiled.
With the expectation now of ‘total access’ to all of your services from anywhere, school, work, home, on the train (even my local buses are now advertising wi-fi access) we’re passing across to others so much control without knowing what’s going on with our data. We all tick those boxes saying we have read the Terms and Conditions, but how many do read them, or when you do, make any sense of them. Even if your data is (supposedly) stored on a server in the EU or in the United States, what route did it take to get there. While you were tapping away on the keyboard, did the wonders of the internet direct it from your ISP through to some other country before it made its way back to your preferred data centre? If your data is intercepted en-route, who do you turn to for help!
I really do find it useful to have access to my information and to be able to do my social networking from anywhere and everywhere, but there is a price to pay for this. I just hope it’s worth it!
Had a bit of fun last week-end. Friday morning and hire a car here in Glasgow and then head across to Edinburgh airport to pick up a friend flying across from America. I guess I’d better be careful on the use of the word ‘friend’. This was someone I’d never physically met before, but had got to know recently through things like YouTube – one of those ‘internet friends’ that so many uninformed adults seem so paranoid over.
Back to Glasgow to pick up another friend (someone who I now regularly share a coffee with, but first noticed through BlogTV – internet contact again). Then head off down to Bury St. Edmunds to meet Tom and Ed. These are two brilliant musicians I know, and no prizes for guessing that my first contact with them was internet related (YouTube; Tom – Hexachordal, Ed – Eddplant). Down there they were performing some of their music to a small crowd of others, most of whom I know and had also initially met through things like YouTube.
Drive back up on Sunday, then Monday around Glasgow meeting up with one or two others. Again, one way or another, these others were first met because of the internet. Tuesday, and it’s time for Americans to head back to America.
I now have more ‘Real Life Friends’ who mean something to me and that I meet and socialise with on a regular basis but who I first discovered through the internet, than ‘Real Life Friends’ who were just met in ‘real life’. The same goes for my contact list on my mobile phone – dominated by internet related contacts.
Social networking through the internet is rapidly becoming a very physical-social situation. Social networking sites are no longer just made up of individuals, but of interacting social groups. People know people, groups know groups. New individuals making contact can be quickly checked out and if anything suspicious found, then others can be alerted.
I now feel *far safer* when first meeting someone if I have already made some sort of contact with them through the internet compared to meeting some stranger in the pub or any ‘real’ location where I just don’t know who this person is.
I can quite sympathise with Alex Day over closing off much of his ‘Nerimon’ internet stuff. I like YouTube (& BlogTV), but things like twitter, well, now the novelty has worn off it’s becoming more irritating than anything else. One trouble for me is that it can be very fast-moving, and if you have more of a life than just sitting on the internet and having a twitter browser page open, then it’s very easy to get left behind in some conversation. Don’t look at it for a day and you may have pages of tweets and ‘half complete’ conversations to work your way through. Facebook, I just keep that because many people use it as a way of highlighting YouTube Gathering. Bebo, once very popular with the student crowd around me so having access to it was handy, but it’s fallen out of favour and I never bothered with it other than as a back-up blog channel. I quite like DailyBooth and will probably stick with that for a while.
I like the internet. I want to use it. I enjoy this sort of technology stuff. My first e-mail address, or mailbox as it was called then, I got over 20 years ago. But I want it so *I* use *it*, not to have it control and dominate my life. I guess it does dominate – I’d be totally lost without it – but I still want it such that *I* have control and *I* decide over when and how I use it.
So go for it Alex, and everyone else who wants to. Get rid of the non-essential crap that just distracts you away from life. Keep the core elements, the rest will still be here if you want to return.