The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a well-respected (loathed in all the right places) advocate for privacy in the digital domain. Or something.
One of their pet projects, which by all accounts is a Good Thing is the Do Not Track registry. What could be better than being tracked via a list declaring your desire not to be tracked. Well, that’s how the Do Not Call registry works. Do Not Track is a little better, as it allow you to send a signal to each website that you visit commanding their servers not to track you via cookies, and so forth. So the EFF and its high-profile Do Not Track registry are on your side! Yet politics makes for strained bedfellows.
I told you some time ago about my frustration with Ubuntu at a critical juncture — well, not Ubuntu proper if I recall, but the Ubuntu-supported developers of PulseAudio, a thing to make sound work on your Linux PC. Ubuntu has a good track record of throwing support to those who develop the things upon which they rely. In return, those things are reliable. They went to war with Adobe et al concerning proprietary drivers and so forth, and did so by punishing Linux users, in an attempt to stampede us toward an otherwise lackadaisical Adobe, who could not care less about providing their proprietary drivers free of charge to a bunch of bearded wierdoes. SMooth move, Ef-post-facto; it cost them great. I don’t know if it worked. One of the things it cost them was My August Self.
Well now I’m tuned back into Linux with a great distro (MX Linux), and am incidentally working on a personal privacy campaign. I know that our browsers leak incredible amounts of information, so that is one thing that I am addressing. There’s a well-recommended website, https://panopticlick.eff.org/, which takes a look at what you are sending, and informs you of your security shortcomings. This site is hosted by the EFF, so you know it can be trusted. Well, sort of.
I still trust the site itself, and I find it a valuable resource, but their key recommendation is to download and install a tool provided by the EFF, called Privacy Badger. So I got this thing, and long story short, it functions much better as a research tool to support their Do Not Track thing than it does provide any real privacy. Thanks, but no thanks.
I want a system that blocks third-party and obvious trackers BEFORE they get to me. And the first inkling that I had that the EFF was sold out on this was the fact that at the Panopticlick site, they consider it a “hit”, that is a Bad Thing, if my browser successfully blocks trackers from sites which have promised to honor the Do Not Track setting.
Do Not Track is an honor system, and this is already a stupid idea. We already expect the worst of the tracking companies to have no honor. A system like this Probity Bodger which waits until it sees a tracker (which means that your browser swallows the tracker) at three separate sites before it blocks that tracker is not at all protecting you.
Block it the first time.
Slightly crazy-making. There is as big a market in privacy tools which do not provide privacy as there has been in anti-virus tools which simply implant viruses.
Finally, you may have heard of the wonderful new idea called DNS over HTTPS (or DoH) which takes your unencrypted DNS requests (“Operator? Please connect me to Google.”) and bundles them in an encrypted package right to a great big data company like CloudFlare, one of the kings of the content-delivery network industry. This would bypass any settings I have in my operating system, such as my hosts file, which blocks over one thousand entries all belonging to Facebook.
No thanks, DoH!
I despair of the masses ever giving a damn. But I want out. I would like to retain a few rudimentary capabilities.