The big five – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google & Microsoft – have got a stranglehold of our digital life. Not just our digital identities, but almost all of our web experiences are reliant or connected to the technologies of these five companies.
Recently, Daniel Oberhaus from Motherboard and then Kashmir Hill from Gizmodo both experimented by completely “quitting” the Big Five, for four and six weeks respectively. Both of their stories are very insightful and definitely recommended reading for anyone. However, quitting the Big Five is exactly the kind of take on privacy that turns many people off from becoming more privacy aware.
I’ve seen this happen time and time again in r/privacy, where people who have just tipped their toes in the world on online privacy and security are getting barraged with comments like “LOL IF YOU’RE NOT USING LINUX YOU’RE SCREWED” and “YOU NEED TO DELETE ALL SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS”. But if we as a privacy community would dial back our tone just a bit, I think we could do way more good than what we’re doing right now.
There’s a lot of details on how Google and specifically Android tracks your location, that most people aren’t aware of. And if you ask me, that’s cluelessness by design. For most people, turning on “location” on their devices, seeing that little 📍-icon popping up, means that the device is now “connected to the GPS”. In reality however, that usually means that the device is scanning Wi-Fi, mobile networks and even Bluetooth in some cases to improve the results – in battery saving mode Android isn’t actually using GPS at all to locate the device!
So why’s this a big deal? Because every Wi-Fi sharing device is automatically mapped by Google, and they’re using your devices as a tool of doing so. In a nutshell:
Google knows the location of your device (i.e. you), even if you’re using a VPN and your IP would be pointing elsewhere.
Your device is basically enslaved to Google, providing location data regarding its surroundings, and thus improving Google’s services with the cost of your device’s battery life, performance, and your privacy.
Every Wi-Fi hotspot, router and such is unwillingly acting as a location beacon for Google.
Luckily there are few ways to opt-out of these things. In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to do just that.
One week and 46 years ago, the Internet was born. Or to be precise, its predecessor (or an earlier manifestation) the ARPANET delivered its first message, on 29 October 1969. Due to the creation of The World Wide Web two decades later, the Internet became the backbone interconnecting first the selected few and then eventually billions of people around the world. Although the amount of Internet users has grown staggering 806% since December 2000, shockingly still only 45% of global population has access to the Internet. So how do we get the rest 55% online? One answer to this is free Internet. Utopian? Not necessarily, since it’s actually closer than most of us think.