How important is online privacy? — Robin Wils's website

Last modified: Mon, Aug 29, 2022

Table of Contents

Does online privacy matter?

Striving to be fully private is often not worth it. There is always information to figure out that you did something on the internet.

Nothing is fully private. You can hide yourself more by using a VPN-chain and Tor. Using the internet will be very slow then. It makes sense to go that far if you are a whistleblower, but most people shouldn’t go that far, since it hurts productivity a lot. It is important to know that privacy and security are not the same things, but they often need each other.

Security

It isn’t possible to be fully secure. Every program can be hacked. At some point you add so much security that it hurts your productivity. People can track where you are if you have a phone by using cellphone tower triangulation, but that shouldn’t be a reason to not use a phone. Aside from that many websites use a middleman service like Cloudflare. If you are that paranoid can trust those?

Seek balance

Make it harder for the attackers, while not making it too hard for yourself. Your security should be slightly better than the average person. There are enough people who are less secure as you. Attackers will pick those victims unless you are a very important person. It can often be smart to pick productivity over security, but you need at least the basic security.

Seek a balance between security and productivity. Most people don’t need the highest form of security, and likely want to lean more towards productivity.

Privacy

As for privacy. I think the best way to keep most information private is to not publish it in the first place. This does not mean that is a good idea to take away the privacy of others. Everyone needs some form of privacy. It is impossible to achieve privacy without keeping security in mind.

Password managers make your life more convenient and more secure. I would recommend them to everyone. I do have an article about the KeePassXC password manager.

It is not bad to know how you can protect yourself, but ask yourself of it is worth it. Security and privacy matters, but so does convenience and productivity. One basic rule is think before you post something on the internet. This alone, can already help a lot. People can use your data against you.

Problems with privacy geeks

Spreading the word

Many privacy organizations are pretty bad at spreading the word. They don’t use the platforms which they dislike. There is no point in spreading the information on a platform with people which are already convinced. Use the big platforms so that you can reach the right people. It is possible to mention that you don’t support those platforms on your website.

Open source fans

Spying programs

Open source fans might claim that programs which allow people to read the code can’t spy on you. This is simply incorrect.

Some projects have a ton of code. The chance is pretty low that every line gets read by someone else. Injecting one line of code which tracks you doesn’t seem that unlikely. Open source can have a higher chance to be secure, but it isn’t automatically more secure as a closed source program. It depends on the program.

Linux is secure

People often say that Linux or GNU/Linux is very secure. It is unlikely that you get viruses, since it isn’t a huge target for hackers. It doesn’t have that many users. Security experts claim that Linux isn’t that secure. It is however performant and has more filesystems. Windows lacks behind in that.

Madaidan made a webpage which explains why Linux isn’t as secure as people claim. It includes a couple of links of other security experts which share the same views. It is less likely to have telemetry on Linux, depending on the programs you install, but privacy and security are words with a different meaning.

The power of adding features

Allowing users to try to add features, or solve bugs can be fantastic. It gives you free features from the people. Giving that power to the people can be a big disadvantage as well. Anyone can copy your project if they use a similar license. They can add features which you dislike.

Another disadvantage is that a closed source company could make a clone of what you made, so that your project is no longer useful. They might not be able to legally steal your code, if you license it. Although licenses can be violated. But they can make something very similar based on your project.

I do find that it can be a bad idea to make a social media platform, like the Fediverse, open source. There are ways to do it without giving people too much power, but it is not easy. I think open source can work for tools, but it highly depends on the tool. I like KeePassXC for example. Using the power of the community can be very helpful, but it can also be the opposite.