“Me & My Shadow”: Protecting Data on the Net

The Internet, mobile phones, and other such achievements of progress have become essential aspects of human existence, and have simplified communication between people and integrated them into a new space. By registering on websites, filling in surveys on social networks, or uploading photos to Instagram, we are inevitably adding to the overall database, continuing the story of our virtual life. The people with whom we communicate, the places we call from, and what we enter in search engines—it's all undoubtedly confidential information, but it's available not just to us.

There are many examples of Internet users’ data being used. One of the most obvious cases is linked to PRISM, a US government program often mentioned in the news today. The matter has landed in court, and companies have begun encrypting their data archives more urgently. Some businesses succeed in protecting confidential information, but many are forced conceal government requests, leaving their users vulnerable.

For help, many are turning to the Tactical Technology Collective, a project that unites technology professionals, designers, programmers, lawyers, and activists based in Europe, Asia, and Africa on matters concerning information rights. On the group's website, it is possible not only to find out what information third parties are using, but also to stock up on defensive technology in the fight for digital rights.

The Collective's managers warn that encryption is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it reduces your “shadow,” ensuring a basic level of protection. On the other hand, it can attract even more attention, if you decide to be completely invisible. Therefore, it is important to be use selectively the available tools and resources, which have grown vastly. The website “Me & My Shadow” has gathered together the best of these instruments.

A screenshot of the site “Me and my Shadow”

The site assigns each app or program a category, offers a short description of its function and speciality, and a link to its designer's site. “Me & My Shadow” endorses a list of Internet browsers and, curiously enough, its top choice of sites is Mozilla's Firefox, created by an established, non-profit organization, allowing encryption via various add-ons that are freely available to download. As a point of interest, Google's Chrome does not boast any great concern for users, and it's not difficult for third parties to collect user data by connecting to Google profiles.

The best search engine according to “Me & My Shadow” is “Duck Duck Go,” as there are no circumstances under which it will share your search request data with any third party—something that cannot be said confidently about Bing or Google. “Me & My Shadow” also lists recommended programs for video chat, email correspondence, resources for cooperative work, and so on. It also hosts a full catalog of other useful tools, and boasts an interactive, comfortable website design.

In addition to technological support, visitors can subscribe to receive updates about important information. They can find out how their information might be used, what is written in user agreements, read excerpts of memos on confidentiality from Facebook, Yahoo, and Instagram, and much more.

The game, “Data Dealer,” found in the site's resource section, is particularly interesting. In the game, users must build their own information empire by any means necessary, legal or illegal, selling information to insurance companies and key interest groups, and providing protection from hackers, activists, and the mass media. Although it's far-fetched, the game really shows the workings of this unstoppable, huge system.

Written by Kirll Alekseev. The original text [ru] is available at the site “Теплицы социальных технологий” (Greenhouses of Social Technologies).


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