7 ways the world has changed thanks to Edward Snowden

On 5 June 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the first shocking evidence of global mass surveillance programmes.

We’ve since learned that the USA’s National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been monitoring the internet and phone activity of hundreds of millions of people across the world. Two years on, we take a look at how the landscape has changed thanks to the documents Snowden released.

Tim Cook: Silicon Valley’s most successful companies are selling you out

Apple CEO Tim Cook has made no secret of his disdain for online services that ask you to trade highly personal data for convenience — a trade that describes most big advertising-supported technology companies. But last night, in some of his strongest comments to date, Cook said the erosion of privacy represents a threat to the American way of life. Cook spoke at a dinner in Washington, DC, hosted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which honored him as a “champion of freedom” for his leadership at Apple.

“Our privacy is being attacked on multiple fronts,” Cook said in a speech that he delivered remotely, according to EPIC. “I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

Sharing Data, but Not Happily

Should consumers be able to control how companies collect and use their personal data?

At a dinner honoring privacy advocates this week in Washington, Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, gave a speech in which he endorsed this simple idea. Yet his argument leveled a direct challenge to the premise behind much of the Internet industry — the proposition that people blithely cede their digital bread crumbs to companies in exchange for free or reduced-priced services subsidized by advertising.

“You might like these so-called free services,” Mr. Cook said during the event held by EPIC, a nonprofit research center. “But we don’t think they’re worth having your email or your search history or now even your family photos data-mined and sold off for God knows what advertising purpose.”

Courts docs show how Google slices users into “millions of buckets”

The online giant probably knows more about you than the NSA — including things you might not even tell your mother.

The first law of selling is to know your customer. This simple maxim has made Google into the world’s largest purveyor of advertisements, bringing in more ad revenue this year than all the world’s newspapers combined. What makes Google so valuable to advertisers is that it knows more about their customers — that is to say, about you — than anyone else.

Can you avoid being tracked?

It’s difficult. But you can find more and more tools that help you know who is tracking you. We suggest you embrace a new “online hygiene” and follow our simple steps. So below a few rules, softwares and websites that will help you track the trackers:

  • Lightbeam  is a plug-in for Firefox developped by Mozilla. It allows you to see who is tracking you across the sites you browse. Cookies, third parties, links between trackers, Lightbeam gives you an overview… if you surf with Firefox.
  • Ghostery is an american company that allows you to blog web snitches. Available for all browsers, ghostery keeps a very large database of trackers and allows you to select those you wish to block. They also consult for companies who wish to improve their marketing practices. Click here to download the extension.
  • In France, the Commission Nationale Informatique et Liberté (CNIL, National Commission on Informatics and Liberty) developped Cookieviz, that identifies in real time cookies who send information to other sites. Alongside l’Expérience, this is a part of their actions to increase user awareness about cookies and privacy.
  • Disconnect.me was founded by former Google employees and lawyers. It allows, among other, to block trackers and improve your navigation on the web. Available in English, this plug-in categorizes trackers (advertising, site use,…). This is the software that is used in real time in some of the episodes of Do Not Track.

Tactical Technology Collective is an organization that works on the use of information et offers a wide array of websites to analyze and reduce the tracks we leave behind while surfing. Their toolbox is pretty extensive – we particularly emphasize My Shadow (available in several languages) that allows you to find the tracks you leave on the Internet with your devices. From the same company, Trackography is a website that allows you to know which trackers are used by the media sites you visit, depending on your country. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feature every site. Check out other articles about tools on our blog.

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