tl;dr: scroll down to the part in bold if you just want a pro-privacy action item.
Digital privacy has been in the news a lot, though you’ll be forgiven for missing it. About a year ago, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became active. You may have noticed that you received an email about updated privacy policies from every single website you’ve ever had an account with. The California version of those regulations (CCPA) was passed a few months later. What do these laws do? Well, a lot; Wikipedia has a good summary of the CCPA:
The intentions of the Act are to provide California residents* with the right to:
- Know what personal data is being collected about them.
- Know whether their personal data is sold or disclosed and to whom.
- Say no to the sale of personal data.
- Access their personal data.
- Equal service and price, even if they exercise their privacy rights.
Writ large, these sound like good ideas. I will note that this is in conflict with how many of us experience the Internet today**.
Right now, companies are announcing very small changes to privacy settings, largely for PR purposes (Vox: Google’s Privacy Changes Are Mostly Marketing). They’re basically hoping that enough people won’t opt out of data collection to affect their business model. I recommend opting out! Here’s how to change your browser settings to limit your exposure to the tracking ecosystem:
- Safari: Safari -> Preferences -> Privacy; check “Prevent cross-site tracking” (checked by default after a recent update)
- Firefox: Follow the instructions to disable third-party cookies
- Chrome: Don’t use Chrome if you care about this issue. Would you use a browser developed by Facebook? However, if you must: Settings -> Advanced -> Privacy and security -> Content settings -> Cookies; turn on “Block third-party cookies.” Like I said, Google is not particularly interested in you checking this buried option.
You can also do this on mobile devices, though the instructions vary by device, so I’d recommend looking that up yourself. Note that some sites use these in non-nefarious ways; they will probably tell you if you’re causing a disruption in your service. Notes below the fold.