Redirected: How To Move Around The Internet Prison, Somewhat.

With all the recent hubbub about internet tracking and surveillance, I thought it would be good to share a bit about how to protect yourself. Although I only know a little bit, here is how I use the internet.

I use a 2013 MacBook Pro running OSX.8. The computer is connected to the internet through a Linksys wireless router. That router is plugged into a modem which is owned and operated by Comcast. As it stands, Comcast can see the modem, the router, my computer, and my browser. To limit access to information beyond that, I use the TOR browser.

The 'TOR browser', although quite slow on my 15mps down connection speed, works quite well to anonymize my queries when searching the web. The browser is an altered version of the well-known Firefox browser but is configured to pass all data through the TOR network, which distributes transactions over several anonymous relays. Without making my own graphic or writing an in-depth article (both of which are coming), here is how it works:

It seems to work okay seeing that it provides me with a temporary IP address, though Google always thinks I am a bot.

For a search engine I use 'StartPage', though it is only really good for text search results, as the organization of images and videos, not to mention the UI itself, seem really dated. It is good to note, as opposed to their sister site 'Ixquick', that the search results are powered by Google. Also, if you really want, you can view websites through a startpage proxy.

When in a hurry, or just fed up with the delay of the internet (often a result of a blocked port), I use 'Firefox' (in liu of building my own fully custom browser, or using the yet to exist people's browser that allows users to completely customize their experience). For those familiar with Firefox, I am able to alter the browser to my liking, at least by checking/unchecking certain boxes and installing add-ons.

One of those add-ons is 'Adblock Plus'. Aside from generally blocking ads "everywhere", this filter allows me to enable or disable ad blocking on specific sites or individual pages. I can also block certain elements such as Flash video.

I also use the add-on 'DoNotTrackMe', which allows me to monitor and block tracking cookies. Though it is very satisfying with its reward system based on type and number of ads blocked, it could definitely do a better job in providing me with other kinds of info that really matters, such as the nature of every connection my computer is making.

However, there is a program built just for that. 'Little Snitch', a network monitor that allows me to "fully" monitor and manage the connections that my computer makes to the internet, is a great tool for those interested in knowing it all. Unfortunately, even though I am supposed to see and prevent all connections between my computer and the internet, Little Snitch limits my ability to restrict to some network connections, particularly, the ones Apple manages.

I have had to figure these things out on my own. However, having to go to this length is something that I have found unnecessarily difficult to do. Not because it is technically difficult but because coming to terms with the effort involved, not just in carrying out tasks with these new tools, but also, in simply thinking about the situation that elicits this behavior, is very hard to deal with. I hope this isn't a forever thing, but, until then, this is what I've got - that is, short of becoming a computer scientist.

What measures do you take to protect yourself on the internet?

Spencer.