All jokes aside, you find the information you’re looking for, and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not Ebola or the current disease du jour. However, while you might rest easy until your appointment, your search data has been recorded, categorized and sold to data brokers who want to sell you things.
This might be fine and dandy if you’re in the market for a new jacket or a vacation, but how do you feel about your personal medical history being used as a marketing tool?
Ever tried to book a flight, only to find that the price has changed in the time it took to get your credit card out of your wallet? This isn’t (just) a result of airlines’ policies of bleeding you dry for every last cent they can get their hands on.
Many ecommerce sites use your location data and browsing history to adjust their pricing, meaning that you could end up paying more than someone else for the same product. The Wall Street Journal highlighted this practice two years ago, and while not all retailers use these tactics, many do. Why should you pay more for a product or service than someone else, based purely on your location?
Of course, the most obvious benefit of online privacy is that, if you care about such things, you’ll likely feel a hell of a lot better about accessing the web securely. The peace of mind that comes from taking your internet privacy seriously is its own reward.
As much as it pains me to admit it, there are a couple of drawbacks to online privacy.
The first disadvantage to internet privacy countermeasures is also the most serious – namely, that by “disappearing” from sight, you’re effectively risking placing yourself under even greater scrutiny.
Such behavior is considered unusual, and may result in greater focus being placed on your online activities. This is especially true if you utilize online privacy tools such as Tor, an encrypted network that the FBI and NSA have spent years attempting to subvert.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of plugins and browser extensions that can protect your online privacy (see final section for my personal recommendations). However, using these tools can actually result in some sites failing to work properly.
To some, this is a mere inconvenience and a price worth paying. To others, however, this is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back, forcing them to begrudgingly uninstall them and give up on maintaining their privacy online.
No, I’m not talking about holing up in your apartment and covering the windows with tinfoil, I’m referring to withdrawing from social media.