The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Confidentiality, corporate surveillance edition

Our revealed preference for revealing our preferences

Usefulness: 🔧
Novelty: 💡
Uncertainty: 🤪 🤪 🤪
Incompleteness: 🚧 🚧 🚧

Threat model: I think that perhaps massive corporate data collection is an empire of oily rags which threatens democracy, or perhaps just leads to strangers knowing too much about my doctor appointments and where my kids are, or indeed lets anyone find me who knows my number. I regard social media as a new pollution the we have not yet regulated. I want to risk the amount of this ambient data pollution I emit so that businesses who feed upon it cannot be so prey upon me so.

General hardening of your computers

macOS by drduh, various UK NCSC guides, e.g ubuntu.

Which apps should I allow to use my voice?

The voice assistants have given us no reason to trust them. Be wary.

Search engines

You don’t want large search businesses to know what you are searching for?

trackmenot is an interesting alternate solution – it generates random nonsense search queries on search engines to muddy user profiling, much like noiszy, mentioned below, does for news consumption. I would be curious to know how effective that is, or even how one would discover how effective that is.


You don’t feel like doing gratis market research for large multinationals, spilling your friends’ secrets, or facilitating Cambridge Analytica voter manipulation? Good. We can mitigate that kind data leakage damage. So easily that we should, regardless of how effective this is at overall confidentiality preservation.

Minimising tracking of your purchases

Whole other complicated story, 🚧 I think worth doing. Consider what Amazon knows about you.

In addition to knowing what people buy, Amazon also knows where people live, because they provide delivery addresses, and which credit cards they use. It knows how old their children are from their baby registries, and who has a cold, right now, from cough syrup ordered for two-hour delivery. And the company has been expanding a self-service option for ad agencies and brands to take advantage of its data on shoppers.

Social networks

Se social media if you must.

VPNs and encrypted networks

See VPNs etc.

A separate browser for every privacy suck

Browser containers

Firefox multi-user-containers are one low friction option; they compartmentalise our different online activities from each other so that each website your so compartmentalise lives in its own solipsist universe.

One could probably cobble together something similar for Chrome using multiple users, but that sounds boring.

If you cannot use Firefox, it is trickier.

Single Site Browser

I could use a Single-site browser to access Facebook because

You can do this too, for social media, or for whatever other website you wish to.

Doing various other things with a modicum of discretion


See chat.


See email.

Password manager

You need one. See passwords.


See transferring money.

Synchronising files

See Synchronising files.

Other confidentiality-violating things

Internet of things

There is no reason you shoudl trust your internet of things devices not to be spyware.

Going deeper.

You should be approximately aware of the nasty things that people can and will do to your computer. Don’t do them yourself.

Getting old school

Dazzle camoflague

The opt-out cap.


Academic stuff to read to stay paranoid