Big Brother is Watching

but you can impair his sight


Surveillance on the Internet

Imagine that the US government passed a law requiring all citizens to carry a tracking device. Such a law would immediately be found unconstitutional. Yet we carry our cell phones everywhere. If the local police department required us to notify it whenever we made a new friend, the nation would rebel. Yet we notify Facebook. If the country’s spies demanded copies of all our conversations and correspondence, people would refuse. Yet we provide copies to our e-mail service providers, our cell phone companies, our social networking platforms, and our Internet service providers.
We use systems that spy on us in exchange for services. It’s just the way the Internet works these days. If something is free, you’re not the customer; you’re the product. Or, as Al Gore said, “We have a stalker economy.”

Every time you visit a website containing a Facebook icon of any kind, your activities are reported back to Facebook, even without you selecting the icon and even if you do not have a Facebook account.
Facebook tracks you on every site with a Facebook Like button (whether you’re logged in to Facebook or not), and Google tracks you on every site that has a Google Plus +1 button or that simply uses Google Analytics to monitor its own web traffic.

Google Public DNS (Dynamic Name Server - translates a web address into an IP-address) permanently logs your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and location information for analysis. Your IP-address is also stored for 24 hours.
If you have a Gmail account, you can check for yourself. You can look at your search history, your location history and the videos you watched on Youtube for any time you were logged in. It goes back for as long as you’ve had the account, probably for years. Do it; you’ll be surprised:

It’s no different on your smartphone. The apps there track you as well. They track your location (see e.g. Google Maps - Timeline), and sometimes download your address book, calendar, bookmarks, and search history (and pass them on to advertising networks). shows all your recent Facebook activity.
Facebook can predict race, personality, sexual orientation, political ideology, relationship status, and drug use on the basis of Like clicks alone. Apply Magic Sauce analyzes your personality based solely on your Facebook likes, giving a small glimpse into how online trackers and profilers may be using the same information. Your Facebook Likes can tell a lot about you (most people keep all their likes public but there is no reason to, especially if you would rather keep some of your likes secret) Profile Watch examines your Facebook page and assigns you a privacy score out of 10. Go to the site and, after declining a solicitation that pops up, under ‘Advanced Start’, paste your Facebook profile page URL into the form.
Wolfram Alpha's analytics tool for Facebook (signup required) maps your online relationships


Offline Tracking

Interestingly, social media providers are also using information about your offline activities too. That’s right, offline. Increasingly, social media providers cooperate with data collection companies which have information about you through various client cards, loyalty programs, mailing lists maintained by retailers as well as from public records. You can imagine just how detailed and rich a profile emerges about you when all the online and offline information is cross-referenced and combined. This is why advertisers are pleased to spend fortunes obtaining this information.

Credit bureaus and direct marketing companies combined these four streams to become modern day data brokers like Acxiom. These companies buy your personal data from companies you do business with, combine it with other information about you, and sell it to companies that want to know more about you. And they’ve ridden the tides of computerization. The more data you produce, the more they collect and the more accurately they profile you. The breadth and depth of information that data brokers have is astonishing. They collect demographic information: names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, gender, age, marital status, presence and ages of children in household, education level, profession, income level, political affiliation, cars driven, and information about homes and other property. They collect lists of things you’ve purchased, when you’ve purchased them, and how you paid for them. They keep track of deaths, divorces, and diseases in your family. They collect everything about what you do on the Internet. Data brokers use your data to sort you into various marketable categories. Want lists of people who fall into the category of “potential inheritor” or “adult with senior parent,” or addresses of households with a “diabetic focus” or “senior needs”? Acxiom can provide you with that.
Tip - If you wish to prevent Facebook from using information about your offline shopping habits for their targeted advertisements, you should exercise your right to opt-out from the three major data collecting companies that co-operate with Facebook, Acxiom, Datalogix and Epsilon.


Apple is somewhat of an exception here. The company exists to market consumer products, and although it could spy on iCloud users’ e-mail, text messages, calendar, address book, and photos, it does not. It uses iTunes purchase information only to suggest other songs and videos a user might want to buy. In late 2014, it started using this as a market differentiator: "Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you" (


How to protect your privacy

For additional information about how to protect your privacy, visit and

Big Brother is a fictional character and symbol in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the leader of Oceania, a totalitarian state wherein the ruling Party wields total power over the inhabitants. In the society that Orwell describes, every citizen is under constant surveillance by the authorities.