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5 Hacks for Avoiding Big Data Surveillance

5 Hacks for Avoiding Big Data Surveillance

Big data is all around us, even if you don’t realize it. Many businesses look at big data as the key ingredient to future success because with more information, they can improve performances and prepare well for new trends and practices. The process of collecting that information, however, has come under fire in recent years. Not only do businesses see value in gathering data on you, but governments do as well. Surveillance has now become a common practice with much of it done through our online activities. With big data analytics, other parties can paint an almost disturbingly accurate picture of who you are. This has lead many to voice their concerns over privacy violations, even to the point where people are looking for ways to avoid big data surveillance altogether. If you’re in the camp that wants your information to remain as private as possible, here are some helpful hacks you can implement to improve your personal privacy.

1. Delete Browser Cookies

Internet browsers can track all of the websites you visit. This information helps to establish an online profile about you, noting your particular tastes and preferences. From this data, businesses can offer deals and advertisements specifically tailored to you. While this may sound like a benefit, the fact remains that third parties are still collecting information on your activities, even if you don’t approve. That’s why deleting your cookies is an easy way to at the least make surveillance more difficult. And make sure you do it several times a day.

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2. Be Careful With Mobile Apps

Our smartphones are used more and more for internet access, and one way we utilize mobile devices is through the apps we download. Unfortunately, many of those apps collect a lot of data, from your contact lists to your pictures to email information. The one point in your favor is the fact that you must authorize this access if you wish to download the app. By paying close attention to what an app asks for, you can avoid those apps that you may feel ask for too much.

3. Use Privacy Enhancing Technologies

While Privacy Enhancing Technologies (or PETs) may sound advanced, they can actually be quite simple. Let’s face it — you can never fully block surveillance, but you can avoid giving the monitors easy access. That’s where PETs come in. PETs can be as simple as a browser plug-in. Some of them work by blocking websites that track your activities. They’ll usually alert you why they’re blocking the site so you can alter your web behavior in the future.

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4. Limit Social Media Use

It seems like many people want to live their lives through social media. While it’s a good way to keep in contact with friends and family while sharing what’s happening in your life, understand that everything you post on social media can be collected and monitored. That means every picture you tag, every Facebook update you write, every Tweet you post, and every event on your calendar can be seen by pretty much anyone. To maintain your privacy, you should limit your use of social media. That doesn’t mean avoiding it completely, only that you should keep personal information that you share to a minimum.

5. Use Virtual Private Networks

Like PETs, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) may sound complicated but some can be used by those who aren’t tech savvy. The most basic ones are even available for free and can be downloaded as browser plug-ins and extensions. VPNs work by acting as an intermediary server between you and the site you’re visiting. So if somebody is monitoring your activity, all they will see is the server and not your computer or device. This protects you from unauthorized monitoring and keeps your identity relatively safe.

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It should be noted once again that fully blocking big data surveillance is not possible, not with the kind of resources governments and private corporations have at their disposal. That doesn’t mean there aren’t measures you can take to keep your data as private as possible. The above simple hacks can go a long way in protecting yourself from unwanted eyes and ears.

Featured photo credit: Com Salud/Flickr via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 14, 2019

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

  1. Zoho Notebook
    If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
  2. Evernote
    The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
  3. Net Notes
    If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
  4. i-Lighter
    You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
  5. Clipmarks
    For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
  6. UberNote
    If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
  7. iLeonardo
    iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
  8. Zotero
    Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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