Net Neutrality and User Privacy – II.

The world has seen a massive change in the last few months. Surprising political and economic movements aside, the world of technology has seen a drastic change. However, one entity has remained unaffected by the constant flux of change, the internet and its users’ need for net neutrality and user privacy. 

This is Part 2 of the article “Net Neutrality and User Privacy”. You can find Part 1 here.

Another facet that preserves the internet is user privacy. Ideally, most users imagine that when they send a message to someone, only the two parties involved can see the contents, but that’s usually not the case. Most technology corporations need user information to function at their highest – Google uses your search queries to provide targeted advertisements, Amazon taps into meta-data to provide contextually relevant products and Netflix uses your viewing history to recommend new shows. However, sometimes this information is taken by services you use on a daily basis without your consent.

The perfect world scenario where no privacy invasion takes place
What people think happens when they send a message to their friend.


How data is captured by large companies, hackers and the government
What actually happens.

Ways to protect your privacy on the internet

There are a number of things you can do to protect your privacy on the internet. 

  • Use a strong password – One of the simplest things you can do to preserve your privacy online is to use a strong password. Some characteristics of a strong password include the usage of alphanumeric characters as well as special characters. Another tip is to not use a password that includes information about you (such as your name, etc). A good exercise would be to maintain different passwords for different services. You could also use a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password to keep track of all your passwords.
  • End-to-end encryption – A major feature you should look for in an instant messaging application is ‘end-to-end encryption’. End-to-end encryption is a technology that essentially protects your communications from snooping. Facebook Messenger offers this functionality, however, it is hidden behind a slew of menus and options to detract the user from using it. On the other hand, applications like WhatsApp, Telegram, and iMessage are fully end-to-end encrypted out of the box.
Encryption protects your communication from companies, hackers and governments
How end-to-end encryption works.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) – A Virtual Private Network creates a secure, encrypted connection between your computer and a server operated by the VPN provider, thereby the internet. One can think of a VPN as an invisible barrier or covering around your connection to the internet. It prevents anyone from snooping on your web traffic. There are a number of free and paid options that you can use. The one I personally use is called VPN Unlimited – it’s fast, reliable, and I was able to get a lifetime membership for just $30 (a small price for complete web anonymity).
  • Do not allow web-browsers to track cookies – Cookies are small pieces of data saved on a user’s computer that stores information about the user’s browsing activity. In some cases, cookies can also store usernames, passwords, and credit card details. If a hacker gets access to an unencrypted cookie, he can get access to your passwords and credit card details.
  • Use encrypted browsers – Some browsers use encryption to protect user privacy. One example of such a browser is Tor. Tor is a web browser that uses Onion Routing to make sure that your anonymity is preserved on the internet. To learn more about how Tor works, you can watch this video by ComputerPhile

An important rule of thumb with regards to internet privacy is that ‘if a company isn’t charging you to use their services, then you are the company’s product’. I hope that this article helps you feel more comfortable about messaging a friend online or browsing the web – without any fear of being tracked or snooped on. 

Quantum computing is the future of computing. By leveraging the power of quantum physics, scientists are trying to create personal computers faster than current-day supercomputers. To read more about quantum computing, read “Quantum Computing – Leaps and Bounds Ahead”.

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