Introducing sterilize-ng [GitHub link] - a URL sterilizer made to work flexibily on the command line. Background The surveillance capitalist economy is built on the relentless tracking of users. Imagine going about town running errands but everywhere you go, someone is quietly following you. When you pop into the grocery, they examine your receipt. They look into the bags to see what you bought. Then they hop in the car with you and keep careful records of where you go, how fast you drive, whom you talk with on the phone.
While largely opaque to most users, Facebook and Google massage any links that you acquire on their sites to include data used to track you around the web. This script attempts to strip these surveillance parameters from the URL’s. It is by no means all-inclusive. Imaginably, there are links that I haven’t yet encountered and that need to be considered in a future version. So consider this a proof-of-concept. The problem For example, I performed a Google search1 for “Smarties”.
(N.B. The next installment in my obsessional interest in thwarting surveillance capitalism. Read Shoshana Zuboff’s seminal work on the subject and you’ll see.) Justification Last week I outlined my evolving comprehensive approach to thwarting surveillance capitalism - that is the extraction, repurposing and selling of online behavioural surplus for the purposes of altering future behaviour. This is a simple iOS shortcut to the embedded Safari setting for clearing Safari history and website data.
(N.B. I am not a security expert. I’ve implemented a handful of reasonable measures to prevent cross-site tracking and limit data collection about my preferences and actions online.) Surveillance capitalism is a real and destructive force in contemporary economics, politics and culture. Whatever utopian visions that Silicon Valley may have had about the transformative power of ubiquitous network technologies have been overwhelmed by the pernicious and opaque forces that profit from amplifying divisions between people.
YouTube comments are some of the most offensive on the web. Even serious videos attract trolls bent on inscribing their offensiveness and cruelness on the web. Here’s one method of dealing with YouTube comments. Treat the comments block as an advertisement and block it.^[There are other ways of avoiding YouTube comments. I’ve used ViewPure but it’s hard to find content that way even though they seem to be working on making it more seamless to get from YouTube to ViewPure.
In the showdown between Apple and the FBI over an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino attackers, some would argue that the company should acquiesce to the government’s request that it create a “backdoor” into the device allowing it to bypass the built-in strong encryption. Here’s what people who make this argument are missing: the law doesn’t work that way. The government filed a motion in the U.S. District Court asking the court to direct assist law enforcement in bypassing the security features of the device.