Guest article by “Lauren”

When I see a poll about “which Disney princess are you,” I know it’s an attempt at data mining. They take all your responses (as well as the fact that you clicked on that in the first place) and they have more data filed.

They know which videos you watch, how much time you spend on each one, whether you clicked an ad and how long you thought about it before making a purchase.

I think the algorithms are confused by me because they keep shoving weird things in front of my face. “Lets see if she bites on this one.” Like they’re digging deep because they don’t have enough information to pigeonhole me.

So is that uncertainty a protection, or the opposite? It’s difficult to tell. Gray may not be gray…

Last week I went up to visit my sister. Her husband is an IT specialist and LOVES to talk about all aspects of computers. I started asking him about security, specific to “starving the beast,” and ended up taking notes. The following is the result of our conversation.

There are a number of different levels of security. First is the basics.

Stop inviting the invaders into your space!

1)         No apps with ads. Free isn’t good. If something is free, YOU are the product

2)         90% of malware comes from ads. Most sites have no control over their ads and simply work through a third party vendor which contracts with other companies and may not be all that concerned about security.

3)         If you see an ad you want to respond to, go directly to the website unless you specifically want to support the site with the ad.

  • If you have a question about an e-mail or think a link might be dangerous, right click on the link to see the actual address. It won’t always be what you think! Even in the browsers, the site you go to may not be what you think.
  • Be aware of the difference between .org, .com, etc., as spammers will often buy up other versions (such as a religious website that is .org, and the .com is a porn website) because they know name recognition will drive traffic.

6)         Use an adblocker, such as Ublock origin or adblock.

Getting off the data mining sites.

1)         Get Protonmail or something similar, leaving behind all the Google products

[ Ken adds: I highly recommend Protonmail. I use them for my email addresses and for VPN services. I don’t get paid for saying this or linking to them. Just a public service announcement! ]

2)         Get off the data collection sites. Use duckduckgo instead of Google as your search engine (there are a number of good ones out there), use Parler or other sites rather than Twitter etc.

3)         If you really like a site, find their ISP and bookmark that so you don’t go through the search engines each time you want to find it. Take into account that if you use the ISP it also doesn’t effect their RANKING on the search engines, so you’re not adding to their stats. Also note that the ISP goes in behind security, so the site may appear unsecured even when it is actually protected. The major sites do NOT like someone going outside their bounds, you you’ll likely get error messages. Just work past them. Using the ISP is more useful for privately hosted sites that may be taken off the search engines than publicly hosted sites that could be deplatformed.

4)         Remember that phones and computers now have the ability to talk to each other. This is another level of the data mining and they do it without you knowing. Why would anyone NOT want all their devices (plus their washing machine, refrigerator and cordless drill) to be able to talk to each other?

5)         Do not use the Cloud or online storage for anything you want to keep (or keep secret). These sites go down, they get mined, and they’re vulnerable to hacking.

The next level gets more complicated and technical, but it is possible for the data mining to get lost in the cracks.

Take it to the next level

1)         Create a VPN. A virtual private network can appear to be anywhere in the world.

2)         Create a virtual PC. ( If you have sufficient space on your computer you can create multiple virtual PC’s and even use different operating systems in each. So if you like Linux, you can run Linux even though your system came loaded with the newest and worst. Use a different virtual PC for each type of thing you do—one for work, perhaps, or one for social media. You can even attach a different VPN to each virtual PC. Or break it up and use one for each social media platform so they don’t know who they’re working with. Of course, this only works if you haven’t used these social media accounts previously…

3)         Get the portable (usually development) versions of the browsers. These browsers do not talk to the main networks but keep everything contained inside the portable app. ( You will need to update at least once every month or two, so keep a list of your preferences.

4)         Get portable versions of any systems you use, such as word processors or image software.

5)         Look for browsers based on blockchain rather than a central network (I use Brave)

6)         For private communications with a group, consider creating an e-mail account and working with “drafts.” Everyone in the group is given the login information, and nothing is ever sent or received from this e-mail. Create a draft, and everyone else can log in and see it.

  • If you don’t trust your phone, if it’s giving you reasons to be concerned, make sure everything is backed up and reset to factory settings. You should be backing everything up anyway.

You are responsible for your own security and privacy

It may seem odd, but I also have a computer that has no modem—thus, it cannot be hacked, mined or manipulated.

You are responsible for your own security and privacy. No one will reach out and do this for you, and in fact most are actively trying to get into your space for the opposite reason. They need to know more about you than you know about yourself, primarily so that they can manipulate you into buying their products but also for control.

How many people could drop out of the Beast’s system before it collapsed of its own weight? An interesting thought, and one I’m tempted to test…


    1. Because you’re employed as a FedPoster who visits sites such as this to “encourage” commenters to make a response that you could record and use against the owner to legally shut down his site??

      LOL. 😉 I keep reading that Data Scrapping on conservative sites in the wake of the election has become big business. People posing as someone other than who they are and attempting to be overly chummy to get them to let their guard down enough to say something incriminating. Maybe not you, but since you asked I figured I’d throw it out any way!

      1. M’Lynn,

        I’ve been seeing a lot of what you describe lately. Especially for some of us friendly folks, it’s easy to get sucked in to opening up on-line. Someone here at MSB gave me some good/enlightening info about how trolls/Data Scrappers work. Not all are obvious and provocative. The best ones come across like the little dog jumping around the big dog trying to get in its good graces.

        Starving the tech beast means being very careful on-line, even to the point of keeping your personal patterns flexible and fluid. That ‘kindred spirit’ might just be using a technique called mirroring to get more info to build your profile, whether for commercial or more nefarious purposes.

        1. Wait, are you a data scraper complaining about data scrapers in order to become a kindred spirit and prove you aren’t a data scraper so you can scrape data? I’m confused.

          I recall back in the 90’s that 1 in 6 social group members was a police officer or informant, the stand out being a women’s knitting circle. The police used to pay their officers to join social clubs, just casually and report back if there are issues.

          We had a police officer join our gun club, he joined with a fake name, but it was a small town, he stopped coming once he got to know us a bit and realized we were OK people who just liked shooting, shows up once or twice a year, we have a laugh and go shooting.

        2. will –
          You shot a hole through your own baseless theory by illustrating how you don’t have to be one to recognize one. But thanks for the laugh.

  1. Great article, Lauren! Doing most of these….in the process now of changing from gmail to protonmail. On a similar issue, there is a company (Abine deleteme) that can delete you from all of the personal info websites. There are (at last count) over twenty of them such as thatsthem and intelius. It’s amazing what they say about you from personal information to that which is publicly available. Thatsthem will tell about your addresses- both past and present, income, all phone numbers, e-mail addresses, your ‘generosity score’, your political preference, other members of your household, your net worth and much more. Run yourself on one of them and see what you find. Some are free and some are dirt cheap for anybody that wants to find you. Retired after 29 years in LE, so I’d rather be gray on the internet as well. You can delete yourself from many of these sites easily, but some you have to write letters…and wait. Abine does it for you at around fifteen bucks a month. They also periodically recheck, since a few companies just put your info back on there after a few months.
    Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY affiliated with this company, nor do I know any of them. Just happy with them.

    1. LexisNexis request for full file disclosure is also another good one to check. Get a free report annually. It contains more information than your credit report including criminal history. Its scary how much information they gather and keep.

  2. Sigh. I can’t even get my new printer connected. I need someone under 10 years old to do all this computer stuff LOL! But I’m going to do it all. It’s time. No. It’s past time people.

    Lauren, you are doing the most excellent job with all the “Starve the Beast” info. Better than I could ever do. Keep it up sister!!!!!!

    1. You are correct, it should have been IP. Not sure how I missed that.

  3. Lauren
    good reminder on a number of items with sound suggestions! Wish everyone would be as proactive as many MSBers are.

  4. Thank You Lauren, great info. I keep my email for certain sites like ebay, amazon, paypal separate from sites I order from. When I get a fake email on yahoo I know it is not from one of the above.
    Just the other day I looked at Harvest Right oil pumps. In a few minutes an ad for Harvest Right popped up on Mr.’s laptop. Yep

  5. The internet has surpassed the television and will continue to be the most destructive and detrimental invention in the history of man. Just like every invention it can be used for good but people will find a way to use it for bad. Unfortunately the bad is global, hard to trace and the world has become dependent on this “beast”.

  6. Excellent article Lauren. Question. I want to get off Google mail but my phone is tied to Google atm. Do I just cancel my account on my phone? What if many of my phone’s apps “rely” on Google? Thanks.

    1. I’m not sure I understand your question correctly. You should be able to cancel a g-mail account just like any other email. The apps that rely on Google (such as your GPS) probably have other variants that do not. The problem would be identifying those that work when G has a corner on the market.

      If your phone relies on Google for primary operations I’m not sure what to tell you–do you have a friend who works in IT who might be able to root it for you and leave the phone information intact?

      1. look up De-Googled phone on you tube. is a guy that does it.. has contact info.

  7. so why not tell us what you know loud mouth instead of criticizing !

  8. Ran into high school bro talked about a friend that moved after graduation. Went online learned occupation, employer, college degree, address, phone number, email, political affiliation, registered cars, children including school info and wife name including DOB’s, Saw his interests Saw reviews where he shops, eats, banks, buys flowers, cavity filled. Where he exercises including time of day.

    Imagine what the gov agencies have.

    1. What method/search site/website, etc. did you find this info? I’ve never been able to find out this w/o paying for it except for govt sites that are public for criminal, civil suits that have been adjudicated.

  9. One piece of information that most people don’t know that they are giving away is the the location of photos that they take with their cell phones. Unless you change it in your settings, GPS enabled cell phones log the location of the photo in the photo’s EXIF data. When I worked ICAC there were several children rescued from CP producers because the photos EXIF data included their GPS.

    I’m not saying to never use your cell phone for pictures. Most photos wont matter. Just be aware of OPSEC people and places and take care when taking any photos of them. Also, don’t trust that video chat software is secure from being monitored by the companies that offer it. I had several referrals from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to go talk with teens who were observed by these companies engaged in nude video chats.

  10. There are many things you can do to increase your digital security, but if you don’t take the time to learn how to use these things correctly you can hurt your security too. Take for example VPNs. VPNs can protect your identity, or secure your connection. But only if you’re using a trustworthy provider. Does your provider keep logs? Are they using suitable encryption? Will you be exporting personal data to another jurisdiction (you may not have the same rights to your data there!)? Is the provider well known? If you’re planning on using a VPN you should be able to answer all of those questions, and understand the basic concept of what a VPN is, and how it protects you.

  11. I’m late to the party again. But if anyone is still on this string, what about GPS for my phone? I don’t want to use Google maps. Anything out there that is safe or at least better? Thnx.

    1. Eli buy a simple cheap GPS. A real GPS is a receiver of satellite pings to fix your location. A Cell Phone GPS is using cell phone towers sending and receiving pings from those towers to give you location.

      Around here in NH there are many stories I could tell you of giving lost folks directions after their Cell Phone “GPS” went dark on them due to lack of cell phone coverage.

    2. Eli
      as a back up and at times a replacement I would suggest having a state atlas, most states should have them, and if you can get them county maps and a hand compass. I keep the AAA maps for surrounding areas in the vehicle as well as the state, or in my case provincial atlases. Several companies now make what are essentially topo map books with sports and recreation info as well as a UTM grid dropped on each page useful for exact locations and with a real GPS. As with cell service the government can shut off civilian use of the GPS network or decrease effectiveness by degrading the accuracy as was common 20 years ago. In my experience as long as the paper maps are up to date and readable you are good to go without a phone or GPS if they are unavailable.

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