Reducing the Breadcrumbs Produced By Your Digital Life, by P.L.

None of us want to unknowingly share personal information, but it’s happening everyday if you browse the web, use email, or have a mobile phone. You could decide “I’m going off the grid!”. That’s great if you can, but it’s not practical for 99% of us.

The Breadcrumbs

So, how might you go about reducing the breadcrumbs produced by your digital life?

ProtonMail

First, consider using ProtonMail for your personal email. There are no ads and no tracking. A basic account is free. I paid for the Plus account, since I wanted more features. I access ProtonMail on my iPhone using their app (instead of using Apple Mail or another mail app). I was using Google’s Gmail and the Gmail app on my iPhone.

Tor Web Browser

Consider using the Tor web browser instead of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, or anything similar. Tor is free. If not Tor, then consider using Firefox , which is also free. I was using Chrome and now use a combination of Tor and Firefox.

Configure Browser to Use DuckDuckGo

Consider configuring your web browser to use the DuckDuckGo search engine instead of Bing, Google, or Yahoo. It’s a weird name, but it is real. Look in Preferences or Settings for your web browser, search the Internet for the simple instructions, or ask a friend. I was using the Google search engine before.

iPhone

If you need a smart phone, then consider switching from Google’s Android to Apple’s iPhone. Apple makes money from the device, not from capturing and utilizing your breadcrumbs. I continue to use an iPhone. I’m not acting as an Apple fan boy here; I believe there are some deep “hooks” in the Android operating system that will continue to emit your breadcrumbs, even if you remove a bunch of the Android-provided apps.

Remove Apps Provided by Facebook, Google, and Others

For those of you who use an iPhone, consider removing all apps provided by Facebook, Google, and others. Examples of those apps to avoid are Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Translate, Google Waze, and Uber. Find alternative apps.

Using Location Services

Review what remaining apps are using “Location Services” on your smart phone. For the iPhone, look in Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services. Consider removing more apps, or if able only permit an app to know your location when you are using the app. (Some apps may break when you make this change.)

AdBlock Plus

Consider installing the free app “AdBlock Plus” (or similar) on your smart phone to block ads. A website might stop functioning if you block the ads. So, you’ll need to decide if you want to “whitelist” that website.

Monthly Review

Finally, make a reminder to conduct a monthly review. Review apps, and review Location Services permissions and other Privacy settings on your smart phone.

My Information Technology (IT) Work

I’ve been doing Information Technology (IT) work for almost 30 years, and I’ve been working in the mobile sector for the last six years. In this next section, I’ll show you a few ways how your breadcrumbs are being used without your knowledge.

How Breadcrumbs Are Being Used Without Your Knowledge

In the first section, I mentioned several ideas for reducing the breadcrumbs emitted by your digital life. Here are a few ways these breadcrumbs are being used without your knowledge.

Facebook

Facebook has been all over the news, including the CEO/Founder testifying before Congress. They’ve been mining people’s postings and behaviors, cross-linking people, and recently there are rumors they might even be listening to audio on one’s smart phone to further mine data, sell ads, and make money for themselves.

Google Maps

I arbitrarily picked a restaurant, North of Seattle. Click on this link https://goo.gl/maps/wDaEsEQpycv to open Google Maps for the restaurant. Look closely at the “Popular Times” data in the bottom left. Google didn’t get this data from the restaurant; they got it from “pings” from people’s smart phones while they were sitting in the restaurant. Those people probably had an Android smart phone, or an Apple iPhone with a Google-provided app that was permitted to use Location Services. The smart phone or app “pings” back to Google every few minutes. Google correlates that data, and with just a few pings could ascertain with a level of confidence that individual X probably stayed at the location for a while (and wasn’t just walking by or driving by).

Ads on websites, Google, and others are getting good at tracking your browsing behavior and correlating ads. For example, when you visit the outdoor-clothing company https://www.filson.com, soon you are likely seeing their ads as you browse unrelated websites.

Mobile/Cellular Carriers

Mobile/cellular carriers can capture and triangulate your location simply when your mobile phone pings the towers. This is true for any form of mobile phone, even an “old style” mobile phone that can only send/receive calls and simple text messages. You’re leaving breadcrumbs, even if you have a prepaid, anonymous mobile phone.

In summary, know that your digital life is producing a trail of breadcrumbs, and there are ways to reduce those breadcrumbs.

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been another entry for Round 76 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
  8. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 76 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.




12 Comments

  1. Great discussion topic. Even if you don’t think you are doing anything of interest to anyone, advertisers or government agencies, you are! I use several of the browser and email services mentioned. I have been upgrading my security as I find new tools. Most are free.

  2. Wow, I felt like I had written that article, as I am already doing all those things (and thinking those things 🙂 ), with the exception of DuckDuckGo – I prefer IXquick, but only because the results seems to be more accurate for my needs. I also use a VPN on my iPhone, and occasioanally keep my iPhone in a Faraday bag when out and about. Sometimes based on my specific destinations, sometimes just to confuse the trackers.

  3. Oh yes and if using an iPhone, and you use the dictate function, keep in mind all that text is going to the Apple servers and back, so manual typing may be called for sometimes.

  4. You need to turn off using Wifi for location, and disable location services and history. They don’t call it wifi, they call it “battery saving” or “high accuracy” but it isn’t really. But because real GPS uses lots of battery, it will be left off unless you are in Google Maps or some other program that uses location, and GPS is all you need for navigation.

    Extensions like Ghostery and Privacy Badger will also eliminate trackers, as will the Brave or Duck Duck Go browser (the latter on Android).

  5. Dont recommend adblock plus. It is closed source and has ties ro thw ad industry with default white lists and pay to get through models. Ublock origin is open source, light on cpu, and no payola whitelisting shennanigans.

    Also consider tutanota for email. While proton is solid and now open source for client apps tuta is open all the way around. Good on browser and apps for devices.

    And be honest proprietary mobile devices are all deeply hooked tracking devices by nature, you are just choosing to pay a premium for yours.

  6. Proton Mail has a free email offering, but for $300/yr or so you can get the ‘Visionary’ package which gives you a bunch of good stuff like VPN, alternate aliases and domains, etc. Basically you can create your own secure comm network for 5 people.

  7. Also, if your browser doesn’t automatically support and post info for HTTPs Anywhere, get an addon so you can see when you are on vulnerable websites.

    Also, Secure DNS (like Commodo) is another easy step to take to make you less trackable online.

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