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Experiment: To what extent can I disengage from Web-based data-mining companies?

December 23, 2012

I’m looking at this experiment as a learning tool for my current studies in cyber/info security.

I’m also looking at it from the perspective of the potential benefit (or lack thereof) that I may derive in terms of greater (perhaps future) privacy (what good is a site called “A Little BIT Safer” if not for this?)

I started by changing my email address. I know that NO unencrypted email is safe, regardless of address – but using a non-Gmail address gives me more control, and is one step on the way towards extracting myself from the Google product labyrinth.

I spent several HOURS attempting to eliminate all current connections and product links from same on the Google site. Everything – even location information. Where necessary, I put in ‘incorrect’ information – if a form field required it.

I do not think I completed the tasks – but I did spend at least 4 hours eliminating whatever stored details that I COULD control.

I could have probably taken a simpler route (who knows if it works) and simply deactivated or closed my entire Google account. I was not prepared to do this since I am still working on saving my emails locally using Thunderbird.

This will be INCOMPLETE at best, and it certainly has (from what I’ve learned thus far) little or even NO effect on ‘history.’ I entered into this experiment fully aware of that. There is nothing that I currently know how to do (maybe some day) that can change that.

Once I have taken care of what I CAN control vis a vis Google and the other social media sites, I can use my LastPass Vault to access the dozens of sites that I log into and change their login credentials to suit my needs. That is one good thing about having gotten comfortable using LastPass. I don’t have to remember all of the places I actually use since they’re all collected in the Vault.

Other tools I am using or planning to use/experiment with (I know… yawn… many have been around for ages – all are free):

1. I use Comodo’s IceDragon (a modified version of Firefox) – it is excellent.

2. I use Thunderbird for my email client – and I use a digital certificate to digitally sign my emails (but I need a new one for my new non-gmail address)

3. I am using DuckDuckGo (see vid below) for my search engine – I like their explanation of how they work.

4. I use SpiderOak for cloud storage (because of their zero-knowledge policies)

5.  I use 3 layers of anti-malware/antivirus: Comodo Internet  Security 2012 Pro (free for me :-), Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, and Spybot Search & Destroy – all resident in the system tray and all tailored for max. benefit w/o too many false positives.

6. I also use a bunch of other utilities like Glary and CCleaner and Speccy. You can get a lot of great, crap-free (no extra junk) stuff from a site they taught us about in school called   I HIGHLY recommend it. The ‘installer’ is COMPLETELY free of extra junk. Just the program. Also, if you already have a version of a program that is ‘newer’ than Ninite has, it will know just to ‘skip’ it and tells you that it did so. You can’t go wrong. They certainly do not have everything – as you can see from what I use – but it’s a good starting point. It’s good for Windows and Apple and Linux I think.


One Comment
  1. Victor Lei permalink

    So do you have an email that someone could contact you at? I’m a HS senior who’s interested in cyber security. I’d love to ask you about your experiences.

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