Protecting Your Online Privacy is Tough—But Here’s a Start

“Algorithms make decisions based on statistical correlations. If you happen to not be a typical individual, showing unusual characteristics, there is a chance that an algorithm will misinterpret your behavior. It may make a mistake regarding your employment, your loan, or your right to cross the border. As long as those statistical correlations remain true, nobody will care to revise this particular judgement. You’re an anomaly.”

—Katarzyna Szymielewicz, “Protecting your online privacy is tough—but here’s a start.” Quartz. January 25, 2019.

So, algorithms are just like people then?

There is a need to regulate data aggregators. But, you have more technical options to avoid surveillance than this article suggests. Here’s a good start.

For one, instead of trying to control the information you put into social media and limiting your “likes”, opt-out of social media entirely. Data aggregators don’t need many real data points to make an accurate profile, and these will be correlated against real records, such as credit card purchases to complete the picture.

You can also not log into a Google account on your Android device. It still may phone home your location data, but at least it isn’t associated with your account. You also can control whether to share location data with social media apps, which again makes the job harder.

Also, using a VPN or Tor Browser can create some distance between your digital and real identity. It certainly makes the job of creating marketing profiles of individuals harder.

Like security, privacy is a process. The more layers you put between you and the surveillance apparatus, the more difficult you make it to profile and surveil you.