The question of whether something like internet privacy actually exists or not is a very legitimate one for anyone who is indeed concerned about their own digital privacy to ask, especially when you take into account the sheer number of threats we’re all facing in that regard in this day and age. Is it a myth? Can you ever truly say that what you do online is private?
Well, the short answer is “no,” but that’s no reason at all to get your router cable in a knot! Make no beans about it – if a group of savvy geeks truly wanted to spy on your internet search history, one way or the other they would eventually find a way. That’s not what you need to worry about.
Who has access to your data?
Unless you’re connecting directly to the internet with a modem you built yourself, using a browser you built yourself as well which runs on an operating system you built yourself as well, in some or other way your data is accessible. In other words what you search for online is recorded in some or other way, not necessarily stored, but it has the ability to be recorded. As scary as this may sound, the good news is that nobody really cares what you’re doing online enough to want to store the information you search for or transmit in a manner which is personally identifiable to you.
So as much as your Internet Service Provider (ISP) could probably view, record and store your online activity, they have absolutely no incentive to do so. In fact, it’s against the law for them to do so, unless they were working with the law and if you were a wanted criminal.
Fear not – even though they could technically still record your data without the long arm of the law being able to prove it, they really have no incentive to do so. They in fact have an incentive NOT to do so, because they make their money by offering the very service of providing you with internet connectivity. They would lose business if it ever came out that they were monitoring their users’ activity beyond perhaps metering the bandwidth or something along those lines.
The biggest industry in the world – advertising
Again, as far as it goes with the “people” who do have access to what can be perceived to be sensitive data like your search history won’t go to the level of trying to identify you personally. Instead, all they really want to do is match what are clearly indicated to be your interests (you search for things you’re interested in) with the sales offers they have for you. That’s why if you leave something like Facebook open in one window or tab and you go on to search for something else in another tab or window, next time you log in to your Facebook account you will see adverts which are directly related to what you’ve been searching for.
Users are becoming increasingly savvy though, with even the likes of some Chinese internet users using VPNs (Virtual Private Network) to access sites which have been “blocked” by the government as part of their censorship programme. If a mere user can bypass government sponsored censorship efforts in this way then there are definitely some options for the average user to merely protect their privacy when using the internet.