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OPLIN 4Cast #662: Privacy, Pelotons, and paranoia

Posted in 4cast, and privacy

A few weeks ago, I wondered if there was an introductory exercise regimen to ease a neophyte into cycling, like the way Couch-to-5K gets me out jogging. I did some searches, read a couple articles, and the next day every single ad on Facebook was given over to high-end exercise bikes.

I went briefly crazy, initiating a massive change in my browser settings and online habits: clearing cookies after each session, using incognito mode on my phone, switching to a more private search engine, flushing my passwords and form settings out of the browser. It’s been a little inconvenient, but I’m getting used to it.

I’m not kidding myself: I know how information works, and I know I’m not remotely anonymous online. But my new attention to leaving less obvious footprints in my online meanderings was paying off last week, as there has been some very interesting debates about the current state and future directions of personal digital privacy.

  • I Visited 47 Sites. Hundreds of Trackers Followed Me [New York Times] “The big story is as you’d expect: that everything you do online is logged in obscene detail, that you have no privacy. And yet, even expecting this, I was bowled over by the scale and detail of the tracking.”
  • Privacy Fundamentalism [Stratechery] “My critique of Manjoo’s article specifically and the ongoing privacy hysteria broadly is not simply about definitions or philosophy. It’s about fundamental assumptions. The default state of the Internet is the endless propagation and collection of data: you have to do work to not collect data on one hand, or leave a data trail on the other.
  • Google proposes new privacy and anti-fingerprinting controls for the web [TechCrunch] “To prevent the kind of fingerprinting that makes your machine uniquely identifiable as yours, Google is proposing the idea of a privacy budget. With this, a browser could allow websites to make enough API calls to get enough information about you to group you into a larger cohort but not to the point where you give up your anonymity. Once a site has exhausted this budget, the browser stops responding to any further calls.”
  • Deconstructing Google’s excuses on tracking protection [Freedom to Tinker] “This isn’t the first time that Google has used disingenuous arguments to suggest that a privacy protection will backfire. We’re calling this move privacy gaslighting, because it’s an attempt to persuade users and policymakers that an obvious privacy protection—already adopted by Google’s competitors—isn’t actually a privacy protection.”

From the Ohio Web Library: