28 September 2011

Facebook privacy

From i.imgur.com via John T
In the age of the internet we all expect to not pay for products, services and most of the stuff we get online. We rarely think about why people are giving things away and we expect that smart people will invite ways of making money without us having to dig into our pockets. And for many people that is as far as it goes. They prefer not to consider what they are giving up to enable these smart people to make money. 

The more skeptical amongst us perhaps understand that many of these services, Facebook, Google, twitter etc. are collecting data and selling it on to advertisers and market research companies. Perhaps you don't find that to concerning. In the early days it seemed like a reasonable deal. You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that all those stupid "Which Star Wars character are you?" quizzes were just cheap psychological profiling to enable better directed advertising. So you avoided them. You also recognized that if you clicked the "Like" button when somebody said they were fly fishing you would get barraged with adverts for fishing rods, waders and river bank holidays . It all seemed easy enough to avoid if it bothered you. 

But then things got more much more invasive. There have been a number of articles recently (e.g. here, here and here) highlighting what companies, especially Facebook are up to. Basically Facebook is monitoring every site you visit and is providing info on your web browsing EVEN WHEN YOU ARE NOT LOGGED ON. And for me, that is the point that I decide I have had enough, I value my privacy and find that all a bit too scary.  So what to do?

Well you can always opt out altogether and delete your Facebook account. But that seems a bit drastic. I have spent a lot of time travelling around, I have friends spread all over the World and I enjoy hearing what they are up to and keeping in touch with them. Furthermore lots of events are now advertised on Facebook. I don't believe that simply denying the existence of social media is a useful solution, so I went looking for another answer and I found it.

Here is a simple 7 step guide to enjoying the benefits of social media without worrying that privacy is being massively compromised. It has come from a variety of sources, not least the Technology Liberation Front. Read the original article here.

1. Stop using Internet Explorer and get Firefox. Firefox has all sorts of cool add-ins which allow you to customize your browsing experience. Get Firefox here.
2. Then download the browser add on NoScript
3. Once Firefox is up and running, go to TOOLS and then ADD-ONS. Then go to the EXTENSIONS tab on the left and click on NoScript
4. In NoScript go to the OPTOINS menu and click on the ADVANCED tab and then the ABE subtab
5. After checking the ‘Enable ABE’ box, select the USER Rule set, then paste in the following lines:

Site .facebook.com .fbcdn.net facebook.net
Accept from SELF
Accept from .facebook.com .fbcdn.net facebook.net
Site .twitter.com
Accept from SELF
Accept from .twitter.com
Site .google.com googleapis.com
Accept from SELF
Accept from .google.com

6. Then hit ‘Refresh’ and ‘OK’ and you’re all set. 

7. If you’ve done this correctly, you should no longer see Facebook, Twitter, or Google widgets such as the "Like" button. To test it out go to site that has a "like" button and you will see that it is no longer there.

It may sound involved but it took me about 5 minutes and its actually very easy. Most importantly it doesn’t affect the functionality of Twitter, Facebook, or Google, so you can still use each of these services with full functionality.

Another, perhaps even easier solution is to get rid of IE explorer and install Chrome. 
Then go to the chrome store and download "disconnect". Its installs very easily with no scripts or anything. While you are at it install "facebook disconnect" and "adblocker". Now its only google that are stealing your data but at least they produce good free stuff like google earth and google sketch-up 

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