This is not how we should feel. We want to take back our privacy.
Have you ever felt like you’re being watched? You most certainly are being monitored both
online and in the physical world.
Your personal information is highly valuable to governments, organizations, companies, interest groups, cybercriminals and scammers, and individuals around the world (ranging from anonymous internet trolls to your close friends and family).
There is an entire industry comprised of consulting companies and data analysts that develop highly‐specific profiles of different types of individuals based on a person’s browsing activity, buying habits, political ideology, religious beliefs, social media activity, reading habits, and an enormous number of other indicators. In today’s world, in 2022, it’s no surprise (anymore) that strategists are spending an untold amount of their clients’ resources, time, brainpower, and – of course – money to find ways to leverage your data and information for their selfish benefit, whether they are seeking profits, votes, or some other currency that you and millions of others can provide.
According to the University of Oxford’s Oxford Internet Institute, social media is actively used as a tool for public opinion manipulation, though in diverse ways and on different topics. In authoritarian countries, social media platforms are a primary means of social control. In democracies, social media is actively used for computational propaganda either through broad efforts at opinion manipulation or targeted efforts on specific segments of the public.
Keeping track of what you do online translates to money in someone’s pocket, but it’s usually not your pocket. There’s a reason why companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and many others are valued at hundreds of billions of dollars. For many companies, data mining is gold mining.
Many companies sell our data, and many others buy it. What’s more, much of our personal data is freely available online both on the published internet as well as the Dark Web. For just a few dollars, individuals can purchase extensive dossiers on virtually any individual from “legitimate” online data brokers. For a few more dollars, the names, login credentials, passwords, birthdates and even social security numbers of thousands or millions of people can be purchased on the Dark Web.
The best thing any person can do to protect their privacy is reduce their “attack surface” both online and in the real world. In other words, it’s critical to begin reducing outside access to your personally identifying information and other data to begin regaining your privacy and protecting yourself, your family, and what’s most important to you.
Regaining privacy takes time, so it’s best to start now and develop on‐going healthy privacy habits to protect yourself and those you care about. Some people may wish to take a pro‐active approach to protecting their privacy and begin taking the actionable steps outlined in this guide. Other people may have already suffered or may currently be in the midst of cybercrime, stalking or other miserable situations. If you are currently fighting your own battle, there are many actionable steps recommended in this guide that may help you protect yourself going forward.
It’s never too late to start protecting your privacy
Samuel C. Woolley and Philip N. Howard, “Computational Propaganda Worldwide: Executive Summary,” Computational Propaganda Research Project (University of Oxford, Oxford Internet Institute, n.d.).
The Clean Slate privacy service grew out of the significant number of inquiries and requests we received after publishing the book “Practical Cyber Security for Extremely Busy People.” That manual was written to help privacy-minded individuals protect themselves from online and real-world exploitation.
Not surprisingly, people from all walks of life are concerned about their personal lives and information being accessible by the outside world. Many people, however, didn’t know where to start in reducing their personal attack surfaces or might not have be comfortable with the many different tactics required to build a comprehensive privacy framework for themselves.
We built Clean Slate to bring actionable and practical privacy solutions to the public.