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Internet Privacy and Windows 10 and Google Chrome/Book

Ever wonder why a search engine company would make their own operating system and sell it really cheap? Ever wonder why Windows 10 is now being given away for free? Ever wonder how companies like Plenti give deep discounts at popular places that you shop like Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Exxon-Mobile, Hulu, Macy's, Nationwide Insurance, and Rite Aid?

You have become a commodity. Plain and simple. It seems that your personal information is worth more (literally) than it's weight in gold.

Google and Microsoft and many other companies are taking your information and selling it to the highest bidder. We knew this about Google for years, but now it seems that Microsoft is taking a page out of their proverbial book, and planning to profit...from you, with Windows 10.

Now after reading this far, I have just divided my readers into two camps: The 1st is outraged and shocked. The other is in the "who cares" camp. The who cares group's argument usually starts with "well I don't do anything illegal on the Internet, so who cares what people see that I do". We hear that all the time. And we simply ask them this: When you clean yourself up, do you go out in the front yard and shower in front of all of the neighbors? Or do you go into the bathroom, and close the door? Do you lock the door? That usually stops people right then and there. When they keep arguing (usually to be hard-headed), we ask for their email and banking or medical online passwords. That stops everyone at that point. Because it has nothing to do with HIDING anything, it simply means that what you do in your online life should be your business and that of maybe your significant other. Your boss if you are at work...and not anyone else.

Now for those in the shocked camp (and some of the brand-new converts from the who cares camp, welcome aboard!) are probably asking "what can I do to stop this?" And I am about to give you some very easy tools to help keep your personal information to yourself.

Windows 10: We have some scripts that disable about 15-20 built-in and silent running processes that are explicitly designed to report information about you and what you do on your computer. It also writes to your HOST file about 40 known Microsoft listening servers that are out there to collect your data...and loops it back to your own computer. This action makes you invisible to Microsoft for the most part.

Google: Simple, stop using it. It's really going to be tough for some of you to break your Google dependency, but with some dull and determined effort, even the most programmed of us can do it. There is an amazing search engine called Duck Duck Go! They are growing really fast from private supporters who believe in Internet privacy. Set your browser default to Duck Duck Go. Chrome? Dump it for Iron. It's exactly the same browser, just stripped of all of the Google spyware. You can get it free here when you uninstall Chrome.

click here to try it

Ad Blockers: Use them! Here is the link for Firefox, and here's the one for Internet Explorer. Ask me for the Chrome plugin and you KNOW what I will say ;) For all other browsers, including mobile devices click here. EVEN IF YOU DON'T CLICK THE AD, it still reports about you from the page you are visiting! By using ad-block it keeps you from seeing the ad as much as the banner ad from seeing YOU.

For those who REALLY want to get hard core, there's Tor which stands for The Onion Router. Some refer to it as "Onion Land" and some shy away from it because it has ties to the *cue ominous music* -the dark web. Most of us however don't use it to buy illegal drugs or hit-men (yes those sites and more really exist) Basically the Tor browser (free of course) splits your internet request out into multiple streams and makes you anonymous to anyone on the net because even IF they can decrypt the data stream, they are only seeing a PART of the data stream. Multiple layers...like an onion (pretty clever eh?). If you are interested, the Tor project link is clickable above. The downside is that the browser is a little slower (because of the encryption and layering going on) and because they strip out the things that can track you like HTML5 and flash, etc.

What about my Android Phone/Tablet? That's Google right? Glad you asked that! Go to the Play Store and grab a free copy of ORBOT. In fact, go do it now, I'll wait here. It also has a BETA function to anonymize all of your Internet apps without rooting your device. It's FREE, and takes seconds to set up and it runs quietly in the background to protect your privacy. Google won't know who you are. Doubt me? Try using Google after it's enabled. It first will give you a Capcha code and eventually block you because they can't tell who you are and they give you an excuse that your device may be "compromised" (laughs evilly). Downside: geolocation apps like weather apps won't know where you are. Also, most bank apps don't like it either. Workaround? Tell it not to auto switch your location, or temporarily disable it while you bank...and remember to re-enable it when you're done.

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Ok what about everyday non-Internet privacy? Well we mentioned companies like Plenti earlier, so let's give you some VERY easy examples. First off, don't give these companies your real information! The only...and I mean only entity that needs your real information is the IRS (and maybe your doctors office). Everyone else can get a slightly different DOB, or some incorrect personal bit of data that makes the THIS you not match up with the THAT you in another database. This makes data miners very cranky.

What I did with my Plenti card (because I wanted the discounts, and the Rite-Aid cashiers were ordered to hound the customers until they filled one out), was use the last name of Smith (you can use Jones or whatever you wish..whatever your last name isn't), and an old telephone number, an invalid email address, and (get this) I used Rite-Aids physical address so that they would spam the company with junk mail and not my home. -Totally bogus information except maybe my gender (gotta give em something for the discounts right?)

You can do the same thing for the Raley's card, the Safeway Rewards Card, etc. Because that's all the rewards programs are designed for. Not to be nice to their customers and reward them for being customers. They want to sell your shopping habits to marketers.

I already have those cards, what do I do? Sign up for new ones and stop using the old ones :) Easy and just takes a few minutes, and most can be done online where you can be creative.

Facebook? Dump it! Or at least change your personal information to bogus info that can't be tied to the real you. They want to know ALL of your information and tie it together with everyone you know.

Want to keep in touch with friends and family and stay reasonably anonymous? Use Twitter or Instagram or any number of other social media venues that don't care who you really are and who you know. Most businesses and media outlets are already using Twitter and LinkedIn over Facebook right now.

Want to do more? Research. Read. (Duck it, don't Google it)  And share this email with your friends/family/co-workers that also care about their online privacy, and want to know what they can do to preserve it.

Thanks everyone for reading down this far, and please let me know if I can answer any questions about this large amount of information that I just dropped in your inbox :)

-CJ, Owner BAIC

About the author: CJ has over 20 years of combined corporate and private computer engineering network, systems and web administration, help desk, customer service, and computer training experience...and is committed to work around the clock (sometimes literally) to help folks just like you with their computing needs.

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