Christian Stewart is a privacy researcher and reporter. Follow his latest coverage on YouTube.
The internet has many privacy issues but we’re focusing on these three: Do Not Track, HTTPS, and Social Media.
Do Not Track is a setting in web browsers that tells websites that you don’t want to be tracked on their site. However, there are no standards that tell websites how they should act when they see this request. In most cases, having Do Not Track enabled does nothing.
This setting is supposed to act as a universal opt-out so people who don’t want to be tracked can change one setting to protect themselves on most websites. If websites don’t honor it, users are still under the impression that they aren’t being tracked.
To make the internet more user-friendly, and private, this needs to change. Websites should be required to comply with Do Not Track requests.
HTTPS (SSL Encryption) is found on about 70 percent of websites, according to Let’s Encrypt. This number is up from 50 percent in January 2017, so the number is rising, but should be closer to 100%. Without HTTPS, requests are sent over your network in plaintext. This means anyone who has access to the network can see what you enter on the website — including passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data.
If you are shopping on the web, never enter credit card information into a website without HTTPS, or you risk losing your information to hackers. The tide is shifting towards HTTPS becoming the only acceptable standard as Google Chrome and other browsers begin blocking domains that don’t use SSL encryption.
The business models of major social media sites rely on collecting and monetizing user data. The recent Facebook data scandals came as little surprise to anyone who had followed stories about the company’s earlier data breaches.
The more data social networks have, the more specifically they can target ads and the more they can charge for the ads.
These websites are making huge sums of money with the data they collect. It’s in their best interest that they continue their invasive tracking, even when you aren’t on their sites. For the internet to be more user-friendly, companies need to give people control over how and when their data is collected and what happens with their data.
Private alternatives to sites like Google and Facebook exist, but have yet to see mainstream adoption. If these private platforms can build a user base, privacy could become more mainstream across the internet.
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