Generating A Bunch Of 'Internet Noise' Isn't Going To Hide Your Browsing Habits

You may attempt to obfuscate your browsing by creating random noise. Sadly, that isn't going to do much.

The theory here seems great. You head to a web site like Internet Noise or install an extension like Noiszy, and those sites perform random searches on Google, hoping to camouflage everything you're actually searching for.

The problem is that it doesn't really work for privacy purposes, a fact that Dan Schultz, the developer behind Internet Noise, even mentions on his web site when he says, "this button will make some noise as a form of digital protest. It does not make you safe." Schultz's project is meant to raise awareness as a sign of protest. It's art, not a privacy tool.

Internet Noise doesn't linger on sites long enough to leave that much of an impression, and even if it did spend more time there, filtering out the random noise would be a trivial task. Advertisers are looking for consistent visits to specific sites, not the places you randomly end up for a few seconds after searching for something on Google. If our ad profiles were filled with all the accidental clicks on Yahoo Answers links, they'd be pointless.

Speaking to Wired, privacy expert Parker Higgins lays it out like so: "The main problem with these sorts of projects is that they rely on your being able to generate plausible activity more reliably than your adversaries." An algorithm that heads to random sites creates a profile that looks random, which is easy to filter out because we're still all creatures of habit, and habits are more profitable than random clicks. If you head to Lifehacker every day at 7AM, then follow that with a trip to eBay, before wandering off to Kotaku for a bit, a data broker can still build a profile of you.

So, what can you do to hide your browsing? Well, you can go all-in tinfoil hat with Tor to anonymise your browsing at the cost of speed, or go for a VPN, which also comes at the cost of speed (and the literal cost of money), or download a handful of extensions that won't prevent your ISP from collecting data, but will at least stop everyone else.


Comments

    For Australians wondering "why?"

    The Americans (bless their little spying hearts) have just passed a law that allows any ISP to sell their customer's private details including name, social security number, contents of emails, contents of http browsng, and all web browsing history to amyone willing to pay.

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