11 January 2020

I have been re-evaluating my use of the internet lately. I rely on several big internet suppliers to provide my access. I have followed along with the rise of Google, Facebook, and Amazon Web Services. I have also supported these efforts, now I think we should divest from the internet hegemony.

Suppressing Surveillance

We are certainly the product, when we use free services we also accept the terms of service which allows the provider to use our usage data. That is part of the deal, I do not regret it. I looked at my router’s top ten DNS queries and I did not recognize a single one.

I decided to look for a different DNS provider than the one chosen by my internet provider. It turns out that this does not help you with your internet browsing. The best option is to setup your own DNS but event that did not reduce my DNS queries to sites that I did not know. Looking up the sites, most were advertising tracking sites.

Alternative searches turned up a couple of options, Pi-hole was the only open source option that I could find. The idea is actually simple, an open group of people analyze DNS queries and flag those that are directed towards advertising tracking services. Looks like many malware sites are also excluded. It is not a turnkey solution, you need to know how to update your router and setup a dedicated DNS solution for your home network. I used a Raspberry Pi 3+. If you can follow instructions and are comfortable with Linux, this is really easy.

Suppressing the surveillance of your site using the links in the sites that you are accessing is one thing. The sites also send you links to other sites that will also send you links to "helper" scripts that will make your experience much better. Most browsers just follow these links because that is what the web experience requires. Many of these scripts are not in your best interest. I was trying to expand my knowledge of front-end development, web pages. When I looked at the page source code, I found most of the links included in the page were actually links to sites I did not know.

I also was having trouble with the Chrome browser at the time, I decided to give Firefox a try again. I had some trouble in the past with Google Docs so I went to Chrome for my day to day tasks. I was still having issues with Firefox but many of the sites that I use recommended Firefox, so I installed it on my laptop, which is a Ubuntu based distribution. I also found a plug-in called NoScript, it prevents JavaScript from reaching out to the internet for including sources.

This is the most infuriating extension that I have ever installed. So many sites that you visit are full of links to sites that you have no idea what they provide. So now I have found that most of the sites that I visit are also sharing my visit with other sites. NoScript blocks most of these sites, I have to go up to the toolbar and specifically allow them to send code to my browser.

Firefox and NoScript have become a blessing. Suppressing sites actually makes me a more interested party in the internet experience. Yes, it is a pain in the ass to have to authorize every escape from the browser to the internet, but I also have intimate understanding of each page I visit. When I was younger, when the internet was younger, we all assumed that everyone was a good guy. We all need to be suspicious today.