Online Surveillance 2019: Are You Being Watched?

Everything you do online leaves a trace.

What is the state of online surveillance in 2019? My Tech Reviews has decided to take a closer look at the world of internet surveillance; to understand its scope, the reasons behind it, and the measures private citizens can take to protect against it.

The controversial issue of surveillance reached a whole new level of awareness in the wake of 2013’s Snowden leaks. Back then, former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden unleashed a tidal wave of top-secret security files on the general public. The documents left no room for confusion – we were being spied upon by our governments…and in a big way!

Tracking millions of people worldwide

Online spying is not just an American issue. The five eyes alliance is an intelligence partnership for the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand to pool data.

In truth, the majority of the world’s governments and corporations are monitoring the online activity of their citizens. The Chinese phone company, Huawei is just the latest to be accused of online surveillance.  

You are not being watched, you are being recorded

One of the major features of modern online surveillance is that everything you do is in some way recorded. Your video and audio conversations are copied and recorded; the GPS on your smartphone records your movement; your computer is recording your browsing, banking, shopping, work, and personal messaging history. Everything we do online leaves a trace.

You have to copy data if you want to send it between computers. What we call sending information is actually more like copying information. Any kind of activity you partake in online requires the copying of digital information – it’s just how it works. For example, a Skype call between friends works by sending copied code between two computers. Which means of course that your computer records your Skype calls.

What can you do to combat online surveillance?

The most common and successful method of combating online surveillance involves cryptography. With the emergence of VPN’s many people are now protecting their online privacy by using encryption software. This software protects your privacy by disguising the data you create and making it impossible to read.

Unfortunately, surveillance agencies still find ways to follow your activity. Either by tapping the wires that make up the internet, or forcing private companies to hand over their data. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo, have all admitted to handing private information over to the US government without permission.

The true art of surveillance lies in data mining

Why is the surveillance community recording and gathering our data? Do the powers that be really care where Jenny goes to have coffee every Thursday? The answer to this question lies in something called data mining. Intercepting peoples communication activities is one thing, but the true art of surveillance lies in the interpretation of metadata.

Companies and governments analyze data to infer personal information. For example, data mining allowed Target to deduce a young woman’s pregnancy before her own father even knew. This kind of consumer analysis is now commonplace with data mining.

Should you be concerned about surveillance?

Surveillance and data mining can be used for things such as social research, business analysis, and good old fashioned spying. As an online citizen, you should be as concerned about your online privacy as you are your offline privacy. One way to protect your privacy is to propose anti-surveillance legislation. Another quicker way is to encrypt your online communications by using a VPN.

What is your take on online surveillance? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.

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