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Last semester, I took a class on science, technology, and society, and, suffice it to say, it was a little terrifying. Our society is evolving faster than ever, and I didn’t really realize the extent of data that big tech companies were hoovering up from our searches. I really do not feel comfortable with it, for obvious reasons. How do I browse the web anonymously?
A lot of people have recently become uncomfortable with the amount of data that big tech conglomerates like Facebook and Google suck up from their searches, as well as concerned with the way that data is used. The monopolization of our online lives has been at the service of an economic relationship that writers like Shosana Zubroff and Tim Wu call ‘surveillance capitalism.’ As the above linked article describes it, surveillance capitalism, “works by providing free services that billions of people cheerfully use, enabling the providers of those services to monitor the behavior of those users in astonishing detail – often without their explicit consent.” The behavioral data mined from your search history is not only used to sell ads but to algorithmically arrange the information displayed to you on large tech platforms in order to influence your behavior.
For example, if you were to spend half an hour searching Youtube for ways to safely pack and store an apartment, Google will very likely show you ads for local movers and moving companies. These are all attempts to mine and influence your behavior without your consent, and though you don’t pay for the information available to you on Youtube, what, exactly, these platforms know about you and how, exactly, they are using it is often opaque, and extracted without your consent. They even collect the data of young users, in violation of US law. This surveillance regime is bolstered by smart devices, such as Amazon’s Echo Smart Speaker and Google Home, which are always listening and always sending the data generated by your voice back to their companies.
This market duopoly creates a second problem: the data troves these companies control is so massive that they are prime targets for hackers. Furthermore, the size of these companies has made them unlikely and unable to police themselves, resulting in an extremely sloppy cybersecurity culture. In September of 2018, Facebook disclosed a data breach of nearly 50 million users, according to WIRED magazine. In April of 2019, the world learned that two third-party app developers exposed the records of nearly 540 million Facebook users. Google and Facebook have centered themselves as the internet’s gatekeepers. You can log into nearly every site with an account from one of these two companies. But their lax attitude towards security means that architecture is built on shaky foundations. A single insecure login can compromise your security across the internet.
Considering all of this, how do you browse the web anonymously? Fortunately, several companies have stepped up to offer privacy services. Petey Vid is one example, a video search engine that allows you to anonymously search for videos across the internet without your data (or that of a child) being tracked and monetized. Petey Vid has indexed videos from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, DailyMotion, TikTok, MetaCafe, Vimeo, BitChute, (and many more), and even allows you to search video hashtags. Using Petey Vid as a video discovery tool also allows you to search multiple platforms at the same time, without one of the big duopolies favoring their platforms. Disassociating your data from your search history can be difficult if you don’t know what tools to use, but once you have discovered the tools, you can rest assured that your video search data will no longer be a tool for big companies to profile and profit off of you.