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Arkady Grudzinsky


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Do we need privacy?



1. The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.
2. The state of being free from public attention.

So, it's a form of freedom. I find it deeply controversial.

Does it mean that we should not pay attention to each other? There are stories on internet of people dying in subway from heart attack in the midst of a crowd passing by.

Is it possible? We leave traces behind us every minute - online, when we use credit cards to buy something, even by walking in the street with a cell phone in our pocket. Why are we outraged or feel threatened when we find out that someone "is watching"? Perhaps, it goes deeper in our psyche that we think or can explain.

What is the difference between privacy and secrecy? When and why do we need them?

Some people put their whole life online. Some are cautious about giving any personal information to anyone. Ironically, we can protect ourselves from oppression and crime both ways.

What's your attitude towards privacy? I would appreciate the links to videos and sources on this topic.

Topics: privacy secrecy

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    Jun 20 2013: I think the need for privacy is closely linked to feelings of paranoia. The more paranoid we feel, the more we crave privacy.

    All it takes is one invasion of privacy to spark off paranoid feelings, which might then lead to oversensitivity in potentially similar situations. Breaking that cycle is difficult because the tendency is for paranoia to self-perpetuate, increasing the need for privacy - however irrational it may seem to an outsider.

    If observation is neutral in nature or mutually beneficial, then in theory, paranoia should be defeated because it is without malice. I say this through observation of people who I work with, as well as my own self-observation. But this is all observation for beneficial ends. It is a kind of 'symbiosis', and not in any way malicious.

    Due to the insidiousness of invasions of privacy on the internet, it is more often seen as malicious. We don't know who actually owns the eyes watching us, and why we're being watched anyway.

    Again, a self observation: Call it irrational, but when I see ads appearing on googlemail related to some obscure word I have written in a private email, I get angry. It feels like an invasion - a bit like a burglar in the house. Even though I've nothing to hide, I nonetheless find myself having to fight off paranoia about words I use in future emails.
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        Jun 20 2013: There is also a Mozilla add-on called Collusion presented here at TED


        It gives me the following:

        When you visit ted.com, it informs the following websites about you.


        Double-click and google-analytics are the worst offenders. E.g. double-click passes the data on to many other sites:

        When you visit doubleclick.net, it informs the following websites about you.


        The site doubleclick.net is potentially aware of your visits to the following websites.
        (following by a list of 45 sites).

        But I think, the U.S. is far from being a totalitarian state. In a totalitarian state, such add-on could not be openly developed and available for everyone for free. In a totalitarian state, there would be ONE party, not two and we would NOT hear the news that the government is reading everyone's email. To the contrary, in a totalitarian state, we would be lead to believe that the government has the best interest of the people in mind, corruption of politicians in the U.S. is unheard of, and we would not be having this conversation for several reasons: a) there would be no "reason" for it; b) people who think otherwise would not be around.
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        Jun 21 2013: I think, Collusion only shows who tracks you.
        There is an option in Firefox in Privacy section called "Tell websites I do not want to be tracked". I have it checked, but it does not block tracking. It merely indicates your preference for those web sites that may be willing to respect it.

        There are different ways of tracking. One is cookie-based, the other one is not. Cookies are small files that web sites save on your computer which contain information about your session. Most frequently, they are used by the websites themselves to remember who you are when you revisit the web site. But some of them allow third-party web sites to access these cookies. There is a way to disable cookies, but it is likely to make your browsing experience miserable - you will have to enter login and password and go through multiple confirmation dialogs every time you click on a link. Without cookies, most sites will not remember who you are each time you try to access a web page. It's like having to introduce yourself each time you say something to another person.

        There is not much you can do to prevent the non-cookie-based tracking. E.g., when you enter a Google search, Google will remember it forever and, perhaps, also the IP address from which you accessed Google. Google has a host of apps and "free" plug-ins which can be used by other sites: e.g. maps plugin. Businesses use these plugins for showing their location on the map and giving directions. Plugin is just an interface. Directions are provided by Google through the web site. Apparently, each time you do that, Google would know that you looked for directions from your house to some particular place even if you didn't use Google. It is likely that the search text field at the top of this page is powered by Google search - you can use the plugin to search your website only, but the search is done by Google.
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        Jun 21 2013: Each time you use Google search and click on a link in the list of results, your browser goes back to Google to tell Google what you clicked and only then Google redirects you to the web page you clicked on. So, Google knows web sites you are visiting. There is a Mozilla add-on that strips the redirect wrapper from Google search results and, as you click on a link, you go to the site directly - Google will not know about it.

        Open add-ons in Firefox and search for add-on with keyword "tracking". There is a similar add-on for Yahoo search.
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        Jun 21 2013: The best way to protect your privacy would be to use encryption and conceal your IP address.

        Check this out


        With this software, each time you visit Google, Google will think that the visit comes from a different IP address. Be careful, however, to log out from Google and delete cookies. If you log in or leave cookies, web sites will still know it's you despite the IP address change. Banks will, perhaps, block access to your account because they will figure out that you try to access the web site from a different part of the world than an hour before.

        I, personally, don't bother with any of this. It's a major hassle. You can see how tor service can be a safehaven for criminals. I don't very much trust people who do not want to put their name behind what they do or say. I believe, best security is based on trust, not secrecy and anonymity.

        Google is not as bad as it seems. I don't think, they sell your data to anyone. Google is very good in figuring out contexts and linking related information together. They can provide services to advertisers without disclosing your personal information. Say, an advertiser wants to market watches. They provide an ad for Google. Google knows from its database - by analyzing search patterns and personal data on gmail, Google+, etc., who might be interested in watches. Google then would put the ad it "thinks" you might be interested in on the side of search page or in the email interface. It's done by a machine. Nobody "knows" your search patterns, history, preferences, or personal email contents - not a person at Google, not the advertiser.

        This seems to be good for everyone. Ads are more efficient, and you get less random junk in front of your eyes.

        For government, it would be silly not to use this technology to figure out who might be interested in making a bomb - searching for blueprints, buying ingredients, etc.
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        Jun 21 2013: I don't trust AVG. It looks like Foxy Loxy that is eager to show you the way to the king, but, in fact, shows you the way to its den. By the obtrusive way they install their software on your machine (e.g. changing default search on your machine from Google to AVG) I can tell that all they want is to redirect your traffic to their own servers. Google is large, known world-wide and fairly well understood. What AVG does - I have no idea.
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          Jun 22 2013: I've just been reminded that I use something like AVG. It has just shown me two trackers. I took a glance at those and...moved on. They're not here to hurt me.

          Forgot to send a smile and wave peacefully at a webcam (which can be turned off and on by an external user if you do not deactive a script, s.ymting or the like, can't remember), I'll do it next time (the waving, not deactivating).
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        Jun 21 2013: Re: "The more you try to hide the more you are likely to draw attention to yourself in my opinion."

        That's my understanding too.

        If speed an ads are your main concern, then "Adblock plus" Firefox add-on may be what you want. It even blocks commercials that Youtube forces you to watch before each video. That will save you many seconds of your life.
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        Jun 21 2013: LaMar, That is indeed scary!

        Thanks for the donotrackme link. I'll check that out.
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        Jun 22 2013: Re: "If Firefox has the ability to know what companies and programs are tracking us why have they not included a blocking program that would use that information to block that tracking ?

        Sounds like they are threatening companies for a pay off to not produce that addon to firefox."

        Mozilla is a public open source non-profit project. It's community-driven. Add-ons are created, sometimes, by Mozilla, but, mostly by the users themselves. It does not look like they are after the pay-off. The add-on does what it does. I don't know why it doesn't do what it doesn't do. I have no thoughts about it, quite honestly. I am not a fan of reading too deep into people's motives.
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      Jun 21 2013: Allan,

      Paranoia is, usually, unwarranted fear. Sometimes, fear is justified.

      I agree with you that feeling of security and desire for privacy are proportional to trust. And trust or distrust build on themselves. I cannot trust a person if I have not trusted him before.

      Ads can be annoying, but there is no way to avoid them completely. Actually, it might be less annoying to get only targeted ads which, actually, might interest me rather than indiscriminate junk.

      But it can feel creepy. I ordered recently new check books online. I visited a few web sites to compare prices (all of them appear to be connected). After that, I started getting ads for check books while visiting completely unrelated sites like Yahoo, for example. It appears as if the whole world now knew that I was shopping for checks. But it is not so. Most likely, there was a cookie on my machine that was read by the web site placing ads on other web sites.

      My dad taught me that it is useless to feel angry towards a machine.
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        Jun 21 2013: "My dad taught me that it is useless to feel angry towards a machine"

        Funny you should say that. I bought my dad a brick made out of soft sponge that he could throw at bullsh**ing politicians on the TV...

        I'm not sure if this is paranoia or justified fear, but I've long suspected that anti-virus software companies actually generate many of the viruses they claim to protect us against - especially during the time when they implore us to undertake an initial free scan of our machines.
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          Jun 21 2013: I have long suspected this about the anti-virus software companies. This business too much resembles racket selling "protection" from itself: just pay and nobody will get hurt.

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