Fighting fire with fire: internet apps combat data collection by producing more data

May 3, 2017

 

 

In March, Congress voted to eliminate Internet Service Provider (ISP)  privacy rules that enforced obtaining consent from the consumer before selling browsing history, app usage history, and other such information to advertisers.

 

The repeal was made official on April 3rd with the signature of President Trump, making the privacy protection rules established by the Federal Communications Commission under the Obama administration obsolete.

 

Tech companies like Google and Facebook have not been required to ask permission to track their user’s habits, and now ISP companies including AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon no longer have restrictions as well.

 

These events have brought internet privacy to the forefront of consumers’ minds, and app developers are attempting to address this concern by thinking outside the box on how to protect private internet information.  

 

Unlike typical privacy softwares, these particular apps protect data by hiding it in more data.  The program “TrackMeNot” runs in the background of a web browser, entering random search inquiries which conceal actual searches by noise and obfuscation.  Essentially, the program hides user searches amongst “ghost” searches making actual data not identifiable or useful to profile users.

 

“AdNauseam”, a similar software, operates with the same strategy except with ads. The program blindly and automatically “clicks” on all the ads in the background of websites skewing the data collected from advertisers that attempt to target potential consumers.

 

The efficiency of these programs is undeterminable. Alex Goldman, co-host of the podcast show “Reply All”, says “Google’s not gonna tell you if your Google-tricking bot works.” However, this has not stopped programmers and consumers from at least attempting to devalue private data collection despite government changes making it more accessible to corporations.  

 

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