I have spent some time over the past few days getting very paranoid about my online privacy. It seems that what you “like” on Facebook can be used to predict your demographic; since humans are as similar to each other as we are, this amounts to revealing an awful lot. Fortunately I never ever like anything on Facebook, but I do use the site enough that my usage patterns probably reveal a lot about me to Facebook. Not quite as bad as any corporation being capable of reading the information off a public list of likes, but still uncomfortable. Everytime I take an action on Facebook I think of the information this leaves behind.

I have also been making plans to get rid of advertising using a local HTTP proxy. I haven’t used ad blocking software for ages now on the grounds that I don’t care enough: I’m well-trained not to look at adverts and I never ever click them, so I assume that it just doesn’t matter. But this is foolish: they are almost certainly having effects on my subconscious. From time to time I find myself wanting a new laptop etc.

What are the reasons to be so concerned? It is not that I have anything to hide: I am not (yet!) of any interest to national governments. I can think of two good reasons for being concerned about these things.

  1. Online privacy is required for activists, so being aware of it and taking some (non-paranoid) steps towards improving one’s own privacy helps in the fight to keep the option of privacy open for those who need it.
  2. I don’t want to be a consumer. I am throughly convinced that it is not a healthy way to live. Not everything that flows out of consumerism is bad, but a sufficient amount is that you’ve got to keep yourself free of advertising. Don’t think for yourself and others will think for you.