sun setting

Tracking-free Internet is Possible

Update: Watch Tim Cook’s Keynote where he mentions the “data industrial complex“.

Searching for tracking-free, track free, cookie free, no-track Internet didn’t bring up a strong list of useful websites. What it did bring up, when I searched, was advice from big Internet companies on how to track customers! So I’ve decided to create my own list. Here it is; and (if I remember) I’ll add to it over time. List first; personal opinion as to why I created it beneath.

To be on this list: the site or service must not even collect personal data from you in the first place. (If it does it may be legally obliged to share it.)

 

service link model note
search engine duckduckgo free “Our privacy policy is simple: we don’t collect or share any of your personal information.”
email proton has free option “free encrypted email”, Swiss servers, ability to send end-to-end encrypted messages. See note*
browser Brave free with innovative micropayment feature “Our servers neither see nor store your browsing data.”
browser Firefox 63 free Tracking blocker activated by default on installation.

Runners up

These sites and services go some way towards addressing the issues surrounding tracking and privacy but don’t make the main list. (This may be, for example, because they carry a clause about sharing data under certain circumstances.)

service link model note
social media MeWe free with micropayment upgrades “MeWe will disclose personally-identifying information when required to do so by law.”
encyclopedia WikiPedia free see TOU
reference books wikibooks free see TOU
reference books project gutenberg free see TOU

*Proton also offer a free VPN tool. I haven’t included it in the table. VPNs are very useful tools, but they can’t (in isolation) prevent tracking technologies like cookies tracing your computer back to an individual or user profile already known.

**I reserve the right to not include suggested sites or services on this list with any updates I choose to make. I reserve the right to not update these lists or change this blog post in future. I reserve the right to not explain my choices in this regard. (I mainly say these things to avoid a deluge of people wanting free marketing.)

Also of Interest

Holochain – distributed Web solution

List on Computerworld of secure messaging apps that protect you from surveillance

Why this list

If, like me, you’ve been following the 2018 stories surrounding Cambridge Analytica, or SCL Group (and, long before that, as referred to in the excellent documentary “Terms and Conditions May Apply“, how “documents leaked by [Edward] Snowden in 2013 revealed that the FVEY have been spying on one another’s citizens and sharing the collected information with each other in order to circumvent restrictive domestic regulations on surveillance of citizens” [the quote is from WikiPedia as of 210718, not the movie but the movie refers to similar] you might be wondering how the Web got into this situation? Today no western government needs to create 360 surveillance tools. Internet-connected devices can do it for them; and the technologies (like cookies) used to track users for good, fair, and legal marketing can also be used (when combined with other data sets) to build profiles on de-anonymised individuals. In the wrong hands those profiles could become dangerous. Which leads me to the opinion that:

The Internet is becoming the perfect tool for a global despot. (All that’s missing is the despot.)

Trouble is, most Internet users (I suspect) are addicted to the Web the way it is today. It can only change if enough people start to use alternatives. The “I have nothing to hide so why worry about privacy?” question doesn’t work for me any more. For me it’s about the future we want to build. Currently, if they so decide, FVEY can put me (or you) on a list. It’s very hard to come off lists once you’re on them. While our governments and democracies are the way they are today, that’s OK. We want protection from terrorism and extremism. We want intelligence services to do a good job (and they clearly do). But

the minute our democracies or governments change, we are left with one big global tool precision-engineered for a despot.

So that’s why I’m changing my personal habits regarding Internet use and encouraging others to do the same if they so desire and agree with me on these personal views. Phew! Good job western countries will never have a totalitarian leader!

It’s an odd sensation. It is a bit like going back to how the Web was around 2006 before the big sites got big. The Internet remains one of the most amazing developments of modern times; a very powerful tool for research. Yet even politicians now are waking up to its dark side and the threat it has started to pose to democracy in its present form. (Tom Baldwin’s Ctrl Alt Delete is on my to-read list.)

So, yes. Right now sticking to a tracking-free Internet is dull. But it’s possible, and surely it can only get better the more of us use it this way. This is the personal opinion I seek to express in writing this blog post, anyway.

It also, strangely, isn’t always free (as in speech or beer). If a website is free to use the thing that’s for sale is sometimes us (our data). If a web service or site isn’t monetising our data they need the bucks from elsewhere. That said, a lot can be done free of charge; just not everything.

I hope you find this list interesting. Let’s make the future Internet non-creepy, non-tracky, and a great tool for learning and discovery it was in its younger days. Educational, not confrontational.

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