In the 3 dimensional world, keeping tabs on a person’s friends, interests and common hangout places is the work of either an overprotective parent or a psychotic stalker. However in the digital world we all seem to have very little problem with people following us around…
Am I being Digi-Stalked?
This week, I installed the add-on Lightbeam to my Internet browser. Lightbeam monitors all trackers and third party users that your store personal information while on the Internet.
After I updated my computer, (My professor laughed and how behind my computer was…always update your computer, people. Just do it.) Lightbeam has an extremely accessible interface that presents all collected data in a graph or in a list. I would recommend the graph view because it is easier to navigate and highly interactive. When you click on the circular icon representing the site you were on – it shows all external sites that have seen or are stored your information. This was my graph after surfing the net for 20 minutes:
Look at that! Look at them all! Who are half these sites? I was shocked. I am shocked. People talk about how your personal information is extremely exposed online, but until you see how far your information can carry in only 20 minutes – you have no idea.
I mean, just look at Google – from opening the search engine, three other third party users accessed my information. And the scariest part, is I don’t even know what information they saw. However, when I used DuckDuckGo, an anonymous search engine, no outside sources connected to my computer. So – if you ever want to peruse some content you don’t want tracked, I’d recommend not typing it right into Google.
The fact is – that we are always being watched. Every search you make, website you click or status you post opens your information up to anybody who wants to see it. That one search that you made out of pure curiosity could have put your digital identity at risk and you have no idea how many people are observing you.
What Can I Do?
There are a few things you can do to try and eliminate the digital crumbs that are you are leaving behind from your Internet cookie jar. First, start by clearing any unneeded cookies stored on your computer. This will make your system run faster and decrease your online vulnerability. Here is a YouTube Video to show you how to do that on Safari:
Second, be aware of other options that allow you to be “anonymous” online. You can use different search engines such as DuckDuckGo or Google’s “Go Incognito” option. These two sites will not track your searches or collect your personal information while you’re surfing.
Third, if you are worried or curious about your information – I recommend installing Lightbeam on your computer. This will give you a better awareness of how far your information goes and which sites are not secure.