Privacy a Thing of the Past? Move Towards Internet Tools Say Otherwise.
These days, many people are starting to further consider the privacy of their online lives, or lack thereof. Recent leaks concerning the breadth of the National Security Agency’s internet surveillance programs have revealed troubling implications for online users of sites such as Facebook, Yahoo, and Google. Although these corporations vehemently dispute these claims, many Americans are justifiably wary. In response, a lot are turning to internet tools which can provide a better sense of security against corporate stores of big data.
One web-based tool many are turning towards is DuckDuckGo (DDG), an alternative search engine site which does not store personally identifiable information about its users. Although it may not be as comprehensive a search engine as Google or Yahoo, its policies on user privacy are clear and are attracting more and more users every day. In fact, DDG has experienced almost a double in visitor searches since Google was identified as a partner in the NSA’s PRISM data-gathering program. Indeed, sites like Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft’s Bing have the potential to collect extremely sensitive data, as DDG CEO Gabriel Weinberg himself states, “That aspect of our site has been more attractive to a growing portion of users. It was pretty creepy when you think about how much the search engine actually knows about you because it’s arguably the most personal set of data that you share on the Internet”.
There have been increases in use of other web services since the recent NSA revelations as well. Since the news about PRISM broke out, downloads of Cryptocat—a chat program which layers each message sent with encryption—doubled in the following week. Cryptocat’s creator, Nadim Kobeissi, claims that neither he nor the government can view the contents of messages. Additionally, many internet users are going even further. To browse the web more securely, many internet users are turning to Tor, a program that allows anonymous browsing by making IP addresses untraceable. However, these privacy measures do have their shortcomings. Tor has been known to foster illicit internet activity and Cryptocat is only useful if all of your friends use it too. Many people are willing to overlook these concerns though.
While maintaining privacy online may be tedious, some will argue that it is crucial in order to raise awareness and a discussion about these important issues. Others argue that if you have nothing to hide there shouldn’t be any concerns.