Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:Wow, Blaine! I knew very little about that, and yes, it is really creepy. All along, while people have been going to war to "safeguard our Freedoms", who knew that we could be "owned" by something smaller than a breadbox that sits in our office or that we can carry in a pocket! Resolution for this New Year: LEARN MORE on this topic. How did you get this savvy?
How'd I get savvy? Searched and signed up for emailed newsletters I thought I could use. That meant that I got quite a few that were WAY over my head to start with, but stick with it and study. First rule for signing up for email newsletters is to make a new 'throw-away' email address. When I first started I made a few mistakes. I started with Yahoo mail. I got spammed left and right. That's when I found out that Yahoo didn't care one spit about their users. Their security was awful, they got hacked regularly and customer into was stolen. I started the Yahoo address thinking I was going to prevent possible spam from any of the subscriptions I made. I figured I'd use this address to sort the serious news from the scammers, then when I was satisfied with a newsletter, I'd resubscribe under a different account that I wouldn't have to sort through spam. - HA! Yahoo was the biggest threat! Of course, now that such hacks have to be reported to the authorities, Yahoo has tightened it's security, but only as much as it absolutely has to. It still ranks low on email provider security.
Today I use Google, knowing that they know the subject matter at least, if not the contents of each email, but that's OK, the account I use for subscription testing isn't my personal contact account. I use another high ranking provider for that.
Your personal info on the web? Going to those sites to 'opt out' is worthless and those that take your money are worse. Search for 'DMV sold info'. That's right, the Dept. of Motor Vehicles makes a profit off of YOUR personal info. Other public sources have been mentioned elsewhere in this thread. Your local court house and don't forget the Feds. Some agencies do indeed keep as much info on as many citizens as they possibly can. You can 'opt out' from a lot of sites and they'll erase your info - if they're honest, but it just doesn't matter. They'll repopulate your info at their earliest opportunity from other public records. It puts you in the position of the dog chasing its own tail. I generally like to toss this little gem in on deals like this; "Circular reasoning works because circular reasoning works because circular reasoning works".
The best you can do, honestly is to confuse the collectors who are after you for ad targeting. Do another couple of searches; "browser fingerprinting" and "device fingerprinting". This is why I use several different browsers and why I occasionally change a setting or three. If they want to store info about me, I can't stop them, but I sure can give them a headache trying to connect me to a dozen or more fingerprints! And when they do try to load me up with ads? I found out a well kept secret about Microsoft, Mac and my favorite OS, Linux. They use a system file called the hosts file for determining which web sites can be blocked. Most all ads are supplied to the sites displaying them by other providers. The hosts file can be easily set up to block those ad providers, as well as known malware spreaders, casino sites and ads, fake news sites, porn and your boss could even have the IT team block gaming and social media sites if there's suspicion anyone is playing on company time. There's another good search for you, "hosts file". I update mine monthly from this source; https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/fakenews/hosts
. Steven Black has other specialized hosts files and combinations. I'd heartily recommend including the one that blocks malware for Microsoft users, and for everyone to learn how to use their hosts file. The hosts file is extremely effective. It's on mobile devices too, but you have to jailbreak them to get access to their hosts file. You can do away with your browser ad blocker add-ons.
Here's a decent article about browsers; https://www.computerworld.com/article/3587752/online-privacy-best-browsers-settings-and-tips.html
. ComputerWorld will have you register to read the entire article. I can vouch for them and I get their email newsletters (hint). Here's one about Facebook Messenger; https://facecrooks.com/Internet-Safety-Privacy/study-facebook-messenger-collects-a-stunning-amount-of-your-information.html
. Now here's a bit of good news; https://facecrooks.com/Internet-Safety-Privacy/facebook-says-that-it-has-no-choice-but-to-go-along-with-apple-privacy-changes.html
This all brings up videoconferencing. The big ones are Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom with a couple more floating around. Most everyone who uses Zoom has heard about their encryption fiasco last year. It's fixed. Not everyone knows that Microsoft.com got hacked recently by SolarWinds, the same malware that got inside the Dept. of Defense, the Dept. of Homeland Security, the Dept. of the Treasury and several other Government servers. The attack got deep enough to expose the proprietary code for Microsoft's operating systems and major programs.
OK, the key word above is "Proprietary". That means copyright protected. It's illegal to de-compile and view the code. The opposite to this is "Opensource", that means anyone who can read the code may do so and analyze it. Most opensource software is free, like Linux and nearly all software available for Linux. Some opensource is not free, but it's still 'open' so anyone can read the code. Why opensource? There are volunteer developers all around the world that offer new features and updates to Linux and to most of the software offered by Linux, a good reason why it's free! These volunteers also look the code over for mistakes and for serious mistakes that could lead to serious compromises. There can be no backdoors in Linux or its software packages without someone seeing it and making a major stink about it. Matter of fact, a good while back the US govt. approached Linus Torvalds, the originator and still current lead developer of Linux about putting in backdoors for them. I can't repeat his reply here, but basically Mr. Torvalds told the US that would be an exercise in fertility ... yeah, fertility. He told them to go ---- themselves. Seriously. Anyway, back to videoconferencing, obviously the best ones are opensource. They have no backdoors. The newer ones and the ones that have an active developer group are incorporating encryption. The brainwashed masses (note the M is sometimes silent) have to have the big name programs for the same reason that a name like Gucci somehow makes a pair of shoes so-o-o much better. Well, see for yourselves; https://www.computerworld.com/article/3596891/10-open-source-videoconferencing-tools-for-business.html