Back to blog

total surveillance via convenience

07/05/2015 - Posted in activism Posted by:

Tags: , , , , , ,

reading time: 3 minutes

At re:publica15 Mikko Hypponen was talking about the current status and future developments of the internet once again. Sadly the direction we are going has not really changed in the post post Snowden era. It will take a while until the masses will realise that we need to change the course of our data. In his talk at the re:publica Mikko Hypponen adressed a hidden, ubiquitous elephant that everyone has in his room. He talks about ad networks and data warehouse companies that make money by gathering every piece of data they can find and then sell it to advertisement companies. It is a topic that affects us all in many more ways than we realize. I strongly suggest you just sit back and watch his talk and afterwards you should keep in mind that the awesome new app for your smartphone might not be as free as you think it is.


tiny splashes, huge ripples

At work a local television station came by to talk about privacy and security issues and we briefly talked about the same thing, ad networks. We tried to find very visual ways to show them how it works since people will not understand all the tech stuff. Thats why I downloaded Firefox with its plugin “Lighbeam” and to create some data I was browsing around a little, looking for random stuff but in the screenshot below you can see that surfing a little bit creates a huge impact on your privacy. I visited 33 sites on purpose, but in the background 185 third party sites, most probably ad trackers, were gathering information about me. The beauty of Lighbeam is that you can visualize the ad networks very easily. Below you can see the full picture after surfing around with Firefox for about 30 minutes. Keep in mind that these are just companies tracking your online steps. There are far more companies doing the same with real life data.

Mozilla Lightbeam screenshot



the trouble of fighting

As you can see the current situation is bad. Many people are beginning to realise that something has to change and quit Facebook and turn their backs on Google search and think that all the people who are not doing the same are responsible for their own misery. In my opinion this is the wrong way of doing it. We are a society, we are all responsible for the future development and therefore it is not enough to start pointing fingers. People should do something constructive and help other people who are reluctant to change their habits. Sometimes it can be very hard even for the people who are fighting for change, to alter their online behaviour. Paypal recently changed their EULA and in there there were several pages just listing companies they would share data with. Even I had trouble of deleting my account there, I had grown accustomed to using their service. It is a very convenient service and I used it quite a lot.

we are in this together

I am writing a blog about fighting the current state of surveillance, be it by governments or private companies. Still some things are difficult for me. Now imagine you are someone who is not as eager to fight. Imagine how hard it has to be for them to quit Facebook, Google, Microsoft and the other behemoths. We are in this together, and we need to take a stance – together. So instead of pointing fingers we should make people understand that there is no such thing as a free app and we should help them so they can realise that they are paying with their freedom. Next time you want to feel good because you are doing it right and everyone else is doing it wrong, try to be a constructive aid and change the future!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *