I’ve been using an anonymous web proxy service for some time now and I don’t think I would ever go back to ordinary surfing. It’s not that I am some sort of shadowy cyber rotating proxy criminal with some secret online life, no I pretty much surf the same web sites as everyone else, I certainly don’t go to illegal or criminal sites.
If you want to know why, it’s simply because I value my privacy and I know what data is stored in the average organisation and how it is protected. Take your ISP for example, they logs pretty much everything that passes through them – every single request, every web page, every email and even every image is logged. The vast majority of this traffic is in cleartext so the majority of it is instantly readable and can be matched to your address.
It’s amazing what these logs can tell about people you can build up a lot of information about someone from what they do on the web. So do you know who has access to these logs at your ISP, what controls are in place, how is this information stored ?
If you don’t know your not alone but after 25 years working in IT, I’ll pretty much bet you wouldn’t like to know the answer anyway. This is the problem with much internet communication, it’s so completely open – occasionally you’ll obviously use a secure site to type in your credit card details. Yet up to the point all your information is flying across the internet ether completely unprotected and accessible to anyone who has the will and the knowledge to intercept it.
Believe me there are plenty of people who do have an interest in your information
Why do you think a European Directive was recently passed – Directive on Mandatory Retention of Communications Traffic Data. It’s a bit of a mouthful but what it’s actually doing is forcing your ISP to keep a record of every email sent, every internet session and web site visited for two years. So think back at every web site you’ve ever visited for the last two years and it’s on record and can be matched to your own little electronic profile.
How does that make you feel?
Even if you’ve done nothing wrong it’s bound to make you feel a little uneasy after all why do Governments want all this information about us? If you want to feel a little more uneasy, many Governments are looking at the UK Governments idea who are going to store all this information in a central database accessible to certain organisations. Fear not US citizens you’ll not be left out – the FBI are pushing hard for similar data retention facilities.
Storing data is dangerous
If you store data you have to be prepared to take good care of it. All the privacy erosion concerns aside, the more personal data is stored about us, the more people will have access to it. How thorough do you think is the vetting procedure for an ISP Technical engineer ? Who potentially has access to huge amounts of this data. Even if implicitly trust our govenrments with this tremendous invasion of our privacy – fraudsters, identity thieves and others can create mayhem with this sort of information. These logs are gold dust to anyone trying to steal our identity for example – they can match up users, with web sites, pick up password and all sorts of personal information. Even though a small part of this information is encrypted when you’re actually using a secure web site (with the padlock below) there’s plenty of other personal information available to compromise your usernames, password etc.
An identity thief can pick up huge amounts of data about the average person all ready, an hour or two picking up all your web traffic and they’ll also have where you bank, what web sites you visit and logon to and a whole heap more. This unfortunately is the tip of the iceberg and I suspect you’ll see many, many people protecting their privacy online soon from identity thieves, hackers and even our friendly snooping governments.
Everything I do online is private, I use a fast professional service that anonymises my connection and encrypts all the data. My web logs sit next to yours in a server room at my ISP however mine are all completely encrypted and unreadable by anyone, whereas yours are in clear text.