Privacy, or the lack thereof, is a growing concern in the twenty-first century. As our traditional appliances become “smarter” and more sophisticated every year, it’s no wonder that people are concerned about whether or not the companies that make them aren’t doing anything illicit with the tech people willingly put in their own homes. Smartphones, Smart TVs, smart refrigerators- it’s all smart all the time like high stakes casino games.
Actually, we don’t have to wonder: We know. I don’t just mean the weird feeling that you get when you want to search for something, and it’s the top suggestion before you’ve even begun typing. I mean, there is hard evidence that companies across the globe, plus the Government, spy on you every day.
The infamous Edward Snowden had to flee to Russia, where he still lives to this day because he made public the knowledge that the NSA was spying on American citizens illegally (and probably still are, to be honest). This is something that members of the Government denied, under penalty of perjury, to Congress.
Big Tech does it too, although for more greedy reasons. It’s called “data mining”. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter make millions every year by reading everything you type, post, and tweet and selling that information to marketing companies. The advertisers build up a profile on you and know exactly which products you’ll be most likely to buy, and target you with specific advertisements.
To counter this, a recent growth of VPN companies have spawned, claiming to be able to protect you and your data from those that seek to exploit it. Let’s break down what a VPN is and how much it can actually protect you.
VPNs: The Tech, The Myth, The Legend
VPN is an acronym for “Virtual Proxy Network”. It’s a service that directs your internet traffic through proxy servers before they reach their intended destination. The idea is to create a sort of “middle-man” that acts as a go-between for your computer and, say, Netflix.
Now, this does have advantages. First, if the destination site attempts to read information off of your computer, it will likely only reach the Proxy, and only whatever the Proxy allows through. In theory, this means that the more sensitive information such as your IP address will be inaccessible.
If you’re unfamiliar, a computer’s IP Address is like a unique name. Every computer’s Address is unique, and it allows computers to accurately identify where information is sent, where information needs to go, and so on. It’s not impossible to hack a computer without it’s IP Address, but it closes a lot of avenues.
Also, a good VPN encrypts the information that’s passed through it. This means that even if a third party intercepts the data, they shouldn’t be able to read it regardless.
However, what VPNs do NOT do is protect your privacy, and I’ll explain the difference between protecting your data and protecting your privacy.
Data Versus Privacy
Data is the raw information that’s passed between computers—emails, HTTPS requests, video streaming- anything and everything that’s sent across the internet. Your data, to that level of depth, is probably pretty secure regardless.
However, Big Tech companies don’t need that level of information to know, because ultimately the largest violator of your privacy is… you. And VPNs can’t protect you from you.
Take Google. Anything that you type into Google is added to a profile, especially if you have a google account. It doesn’t matter if you have a VPN if you’re always logged in to your Google account. Everything you search gets added to Google’s secret profile of you, and it doesn’t matter if Google doesn’t know you’re exact IP address if your account lists Brandon Smith of 223 Mulberry Lane in the personal section of your account.
And this extends to all of Google’s subsidiaries, such as Gmail and YouTube. Everyone you communicate with, every video you watch, is all carefully monitored and tracked so that Google can accurately tell advertisers anything they could possibly want to know about you.
All the Big Tech corporations do it too. Facebook is perhaps the most notorious, but Twitter, Amazon, Netflix, and all their subsidiaries, like Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp, all make their millions in the exact same way.
The rule of thumb is, if it’s hard to see how a piece of software is making money, then their product is you.
Here’s an example that you may not have heard: Target.
In 2012, a story went viral about a father who stormed in angrily to a Target manager, demanding to know why they were mailing coupons for cribs and baby clothes to his daughter. Were they trying to encourage his daughter to get pregnant? The manager apologized, but a couple of days later, the father apologized to Target. His daughter was already pregnant, and Target had known before the father.
What happened was that the daughter had been purchasing items like unscented lotion and cotton balls, and so Target’s algorithms pieced together that she was pregnant and started mailing advertisements for pregnancy products. So even if you don’t ever list yourself as pregnant online on any social media platform, your search habits and purchasing history are probably enough for corporations to piece together any information you haven’t explicitly posted about.
Going Off the Grid
So the question becomes, how does one actually protect their own privacy? Well, it’s a hell of a challenge. In all honesty, it would probably be easier to disconnect from the grid entirely than it would be to try and actually protect your privacy directly.
Well, the first thing to try is to switch to alt-tech. Easier said than done, of course. It would mean giving up just about every major platform and internet utility, like Google, Gmail, YouTube, and about ninety percent of websites.
You would also need to give up certain software on your computer. No more Chrome, for instance. Heck, you would probably have to change your entire Operating System. Some kind of Linux system would be optimal. I’m not sure if Microsoft datamines, since the software is paid for anyway, but I wouldn’t put it past them.
Cell phones, however, are completely out of the question. A tiny computer that you carry everywhere, complete with a GPS, a camera, and a microphone? Forget chips in the Covid Vaccine. You carry your own tracking device wherever you go. You also have to worry a lot about China since they make the phones themselves and a large chunk of the apps that are available for them. TikTok has been busted sending your data to China, for instance.
The Evils of Big Tech
Now, privacy is an important issue to a lot of people… when asked about it. Usually, most people are perfectly fine going through their daily motions without worrying about it one way or the other. What does it matter really if they are reading my tweets? I’d rather that they show me advertisements for something I want than something I don’t. The Government uses the NSA to catch terrorists, not people like me.
My answer to that is yes… and no.
Big Tech has become exceedingly arrogant and powerful, and it has only doubled down on that power. When Alex Jones got deplatformed a couple of years ago, he lost his accounts on nearly everything. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Itunes, and there were some calling for him to be removed from WhatsApp so that he couldn’t even communicate privately among his colleagues.
Now, who cares if a “nut job conspiracy theorist” gets kicked off these platforms? I mean, there’s free speech and all that, but come on… it’s Alex Jones.
You should care because it’s NOT just Alex Jones. It’s thousands of people every day being kicked off of social media almost arbitrarily. Are some of them genuinely bad people? Possibly. Perhaps probably.
It’s not a good enough justification, and it certainly doesn’t justify the deplatforming of the President. Supposedly, he the most powerful man on Earth. The highest Office in the United States. The Leader of the Free World. And he’s gone from every platform on Earth at the snap of Big Tech’s fingers because of something he never did or said. Then, when it seemed like President Trump would switch to Parler, Big Tech snapped their fingers again and brought their Free Speech competitor to its knees.
It’s overt, partisan censorship, protected by Government officials who are benefiting from Big Tech’s interference. It’s so bad even Germany is aghast – Germany, for cryin’ out loud! It’s disgusting that Big Tech would even dare to do this, especially when the Chinese Communist Party (you know, the one with the concentration camps) and the Ayatolla of Iran (the guy who throws homosexuals off rooftops) have not been banned from a single platform.
Big Tech is hypocritical and applies a double standard on users it dislikes. They have no moral compass, and at the very least, do not deserve the protections of the Good Samaritan Act (Section 230). Big Tech are publishers. They are biased, they are subjective. They hate you, and they’ll squeeze every last dollar they can out of you, and no VPN on Earth will protect you from that.