An individual’s age, zip code, income level, whether or not they smoke or are pregnant, and more information is now the knowledge of third party websites that will use the information to serve consumers ads online. The Associated Press reports that the website can obtain a computer’s IP address, which, when mixed with other information can locate a person’s address or name. Researchers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have confirmed that sites such as Google, Yahoo, Twitter, YouTube, and many more have received this personal data. The site Doubleclick, which has obtained information, has the ability to match this data up with an already vast collection of online reading and buying habits, thus creating a detailed account of an individual. Healthcare.gov is sending this data even if a user has turned on Do Not Track, according to Gigaom.com. The third party sites are prohibited from using the data for their own use but the Obama Administration did not explain how they would monitor and control the use of the data. Instead, Administration spokesman Aaron Albright said that the government is only using the personal information to create “a simpler, more streamlined and intuitive experience” on Healthcare.gov. (AP) This all comes in the wake of President Obama’s new plans to protect personal data online and make corporations responsible for the data they store. The dangers go deeper than information used to serve advertisements. If one of the third party sites was breached by a hacker, millions of individuals’ private data would be exposed and as the world has seen in recent events, the possibility of this happening is extremely high. “You don’t need all of that data to do customer service,” said Theresa Payton to AP, former White House chief information officer. “We know hackers are just waiting at the door, salivating to get at this data.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends installing Privacy Badger, which will block these third party connections.
Tor (previously short for The Onion Router) was originally designed by the U.S. Navy to create software that would protect government communications. Today, over 2.5 million people of all professions use Tor daily.
Tor encrypts the information that is sent out across the network and is then transferred to several different servers so that the information cannot be traced back. Now, Tor is a non-profit organization whose main focus is securing online privacy. Tor is useful for anyone who wants to keep their IPS address and identity hidden. One thing to keep in mind is that “Tor will not protect you from the NSA (National Security Agency) or GCHQ (British Government Communications Headquarter)” , said Lewman, “Because they are multi billion-dollar agencies with fantastic capabilities”. So in other words, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want the world to know about.
How did the NSA and GCHQ leak information?
“Cyber spies” from the United States and the UK have been leaking information to the Tor team, according to an interview from BBC with Tors project manager Andrew Lewman. In July of this year, two researchers from Carnegie Mellon University gained access to user information.. The NSA has tried several tactics including CNE attacks (computer network exploitation) to hack into the Tor system, according to The Guardian. Even though the NSA and GCHQ have both targeted Tor users, there are a few employees who stand by internet privacy. Lewman stated, “We’re one of the few open source projects that take anonymous bug requests – completely anonymous”, which is how the tips were submitted.