Bear with me as this is my first true thread. I will do my best to remain objective toward the subject matter. I am studying network security, system
administration, and wireless encryption. The information I am going to cover is based on my own knowledge and skill set dealing with computer
systems. Yet, basically, I just need to get this off my chest.
I was discussing information privacy and online anonymity with my colleague the other day. We soon found ourselves discussing google and atomicity of
data. The whole conversation begged the question: If companies, i.e. google, gather data about people (they do), what good is this data if it is not
guaranteed to refer to the person in question?
For example. If data is collected about you in order to better serve advertisements on a personal level, what good is it if google messes up and
mixes data from someone else with you? Well, its rubbish! It is easy to "code" for what we call
The concept of atomicity is simple: If the data is not 100% correct - chuck it, or ask again. Lets put this knowledge into practice now.
You start your favorite web browser (IE, Chrome, Firefox, Iceweasel, Safari, Lynx
, etc) and begin surfing the web. Did you log into a google
service, anywhere? They know who you are now, but not just because of the obvious fact that you have logged into their system. They know your IP,
but we all know this as well. They put a cookie on your browser too, if you let them...but here is the shocker that few people realize: Next time, you
don't need to log in. They remember that IP and the data going with it. Now you may say IP's change...and yes they do! This is where Atomicity
comes into play, it effectively allows google (or any company doing this) to see the fact that data has changed. Then google goes back on the hunt
for identifying you again, and again, and again. This happens whenever you switch computers, devices, IP's, accounts...but they keep track, and they
do it well. It is not only cookies, or the other things I have mentioned here, but a wide swath of techniques. The cool/creepy thing is that all of
this is automated. I could replicate this setup at home with virtual computers on a very small scale. I could demonstrate, however, how many
different ways I could identify YOU apart from others on the network.
Back to my discussion with my colleague. He told me that they do indeed have such an array of data gathering as to keep you pinned down wherever you
go. Even when using Tor or a proxy, the moment they see that cookie or you logged into an account, even an open session because you didn't
completely kill your browser before going "anonymous"...basically it is extremely difficult to be truly invisible on the web.
Where is the conspiracy in all this? People don't know the extent of this!! If a man followed you everywhere you went, he would be stalking you.
That is a crime, and you would be rightly terrified of his ambitions.
We ended up deciding that the only way you could be truly "anonymous" online was to do the following:
- Have a new computer / untouched harddrive / or reformat existing computer.
- Never connect to home networks, as relational mapping will discover the device when you later log in on your regular computers.
- Go to a public WiFi for internet access (i.e. McDonalds)