Privacy Level 2: How to keep your data private

The anti-terror bill introduced language that authorizes surveillance of individuals, and not just members of organizations declared by the courts as terrorist. This surveillance includes a way for law enforcement to compel ISPs to provide all the data and metadata they collect that can be attributed to you. We’ve seen how this plays out in dystopian science fiction novels, although I would argue it’s more Brave New World versus Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Given that context about the anti-terror bill, it is important that you know this: the data you send over the internet can be read by anyone. It doesn’t even have to be someone with criminal intent. If you’re working from the office, your office IT probably logs which sites you visit. If you’re working from home, your ISP has access to your data because you’re sending it over their servers.

Some people would argue that the anti-terror bill is okay “because they have nothing to hide.” I believe though that this argument stems from a mix of a lack of understanding on how information can be used and hopeful naivete.

How can information be misused: let’s say that you are bothered by the truly horrifying fact that sex crimes exist. With the intention to help, you search for known sex traffickers on the internet. You eventually stumble on to a site that purveys said illicit materials. Congratulations! Your ISP (or whoever is listening in, cue anti-terror bill) now has you on a list of people with searching behaviors consistent with sex criminals.

I also said hopeful naivete because the “I have nothing to hide” argument is based on the fact that you trust EVERYONE around you implicitly. As I said, your data can be read by anyone. If you believe that everyone on Earth has everyone else’s best interests at heart, then let me greet you a belated happy birthday – seems you were just born yesterday.

As I have said in the previous article, if you hand over all your information, you are simply enabling a power imbalance with you on the losing end. Why participate in creating such a power imbalance at all?

Anyone can see my data?

The internet is insecure by default. When the internet was starting out, only universities, the US military, and giant conglomerates had access to it. You needed room sized computers to communicate with other room sized computers.

Eventually, the prices and sizes of the components needed for computers shrank. Computers eventually became personal computers. Everyone and their (geeky) uncle had access to one. The internet grew not only in size, but also in functionality — new ideas were introduced that expanded on its original functionality. Instead of just sending someone a random greeting, I could now send instructions to my bank to transfer money from my account to another account. This lead to unscrupulous individuals who saw how they can make money off of that insecurity.

simplified image showing how traffic is sent between computers on the internet
Sending unsecured messages over the internet

The simple design of how the internet worked led to its rapid growth but it also has innate vulnerabilities that you would now need to compensate for if you wanted to make sure you were secure.

In the previous article, Privacy Level 1: Know What You’re Sharing, I wanted to educate you on the data you inadvertently shared to social media companies and friends. In this article, I will now show you how to make sure your traffic is secure.

What you can do

Step 1: Install these extensions

https everywhere

Download https everywhere here: Chrome Desktop, Firefox Desktop, Firefox on Android

SSL encrypts the traffic between your computer and the website, server, or computer you are talking to. Sites that have “https” automatically does this encryption for you so you can be fairly certain that your data is only visible to you and whoever your computer is talking to.

The same conversation over SSL.

“https everywhere” is an extension that you install that changes the URL of the site you’re visiting to its “https” version (if supported).

Note that though your messages/data are encrypted, your ISP, your office, or whoever is watching your traffic still knows the website you visited. They just can’t read what you talked about.

uBlock Origin

uBlock Origin

Download uBlock Origin here: Chrome Desktop, Firefox Desktop

When you visit websites, they usually include some code that helps them understand you more. An unfortunate side effect of this is that you are likely sending your data through big companies such as Google and Facebook.

uBlock Origin is a content blocker. It not only blocks ads, but it also disables any tracking software that may be on the websites. It also removes any content that comes from known malware domains — sometimes websites do get hacked and, because of that, they inadvertently serve malware sometimes.

Privacy Badger

Download Privacy Badger here: Chrome Desktop, Firefox Desktop, Firefox on Android

Privacy Badger is usually described as “where uBlock Origin ends, Privacy Badger starts.”

So how the usual content blockers work (uBlock origin included) is that they have a list of blacklisted content providers/IPs. They would then block from content/traffic from these providers on the list. How about for ones not on those lists? Privacy Badger basically monitors your traffic and watches if there’s any source that provides content across different websites (think ads that follow you around after you added something to your shopping cart). If it sees anything like that, it automatically blocks that content for you.

Hmm… not a lot of options for iOS?

Noticed that too, huh? The app store’s walled garden has meant that a lot of innovative applications and extensions such as the above don’t get approved. Fortunately, there is still a recourse: install a new browser!

Step 2: Try a different browser

In this step, I’m going to list a couple of browsers. You don’t need to install all of them though, just choose one and you’re good to go.

Brave Browser

Download it here: Brave Browser

Brave is an interesting new experiment. It’s built on top of the Chromium Engine, the same engine that Chrome uses. It’s developed completely in the open so anyone can inspect their code. Here’s Brave browser’s github repo (i.e. where they store their source code) if you want to inspect it. It also introduces a completely new way for publishers to earn. Publishers earn via BAT tokens – yup, cryptocurrency. You can read more about what BAT Tokens are here and you can see how much 1 BAT token is worth here.

So everytime you visit MommyGinger.com, for example, Brave browser (on your local device, not sent anywhere else) will tally how many times you visited her. The people at Brave don’t see this user-specific data, what they get instead is the total visits from all Brave browser users to MommyGinger.com. Ginger is then rewarded BAT tokens based on that number.

As a user, instead of being served ads without a choice, you OPT-IN to their rewards program. When you see the ads, you accumulate BAT tokens as well. From being just an eyeball looking at ads, you are now also earning from your views. Users receive 70% of the ad revenue share as a “reward for their attention.” The ads served are personalized BUT all the data lives on your local device only, your device “calls” for relevant ads but the server doesn’t see your individual data profile.

Aside from that you can also give tips to your favorite content creators. Similar to how it works on Twitch.

Personally, I’m excited about this truly innovative use of blockchain and crypto.

Disclosure: Brave browser was involved in some controversy a while back. If you visited binance.com, they would add their affiliate link. You can read more about it here. They’ve since said sorry and have removed this auto-affiliate thing.

TOR Browser

Download TOR Browser here: iOS App Store (Onion Browser), Android Play Store, Desktop

The TOR Browser forces all your traffic over The Onion Router. Basically, it’s a series of servers that bounce your traffic around, each adding a layer of encryption. The main intent here is anonymity. You are bounced around with millions of other users on TOR so traffic that reaches a server can’t be traced back to your location. I’ll talk more about TOR in my next article.

Aside from that, the TOR Browser also disables certain functionalities normally present in other browsers: Javascript, Flash, Quicktime, and Realplayer. These functionalities may be exploited by some parties so it keeps them turned off by default.

Note that the TOR Browser for iOS, named Onion Browser, will show that it’s published by a guy named Mike Tigas. As per his bio: Mike Tigas is a software engineer and journalist. He works at ProPublica and is a core contributor to the Tor Project. Regardless, however, the browser is free and open-source. You can see Onion Browser’s source code here. The other main contributors are Benajmin Erhart and the Guardian Project, the latter known for creating apps used by, to quote their website “any person looking to protect their data from unjust intrusion, interception, and monitoring.” I would personally trust these developers but, of course, the ultimate decision is up to you.

The Anti-Terror Bill

The anti-terror bill was probably created with the best of intentions at heart. Best intentions, however, can’t stop unintended consequences from rearing its ugly head. For example – one can argue that Metro Manila traffic worsened BECAUSE of the color coding scheme. How? Let’s take my family as an anecdote. Before, we only had 1 car, my dad would bring us to school then drive my mom to work, then go to work himself. When the color coding scheme was implemented, my dad wanted another car for that one day because he wasn’t about to let his family take the woefully bad public transport system here. So now we have a car that was being used 4 workdays out of 5, and 1 for that 1 day. Now looking at that car — what a waste. A car used just once a week? So my mom learned how to drive. Now there were 2 of them on the road instead of just 1 car.

Now, I’m not saying that the anti-terror bill will actually cause terrorism, but I’m wary of the new behaviors particularly from law enforcement because of this. For this bill to work properly, we need to have an impartial watchdog that keeps track to see whether the anti-terror bill is truly being used for its intended purpose. Impartiality, unfortunately, seems to be in short supply nowadays, with dissenting opinion being characterized as either stupid or downright seditious.

MommyGinger.com and Privacy

Ginger earns mainly from the ads that she has on her blog — some of these ads are served by Google and Facebook. However, Ginger believes in your right to privacy and she respects your choice to turn on your content blocker. Understandably, it does leave her in a bit of a pickle. So instead, Ginger would like to request 3 things:

  1. Download a free copy of her book, Building a Business in the Philippines, by signing up when the pop up appears,
  2. Actively engage with her blog by leaving comments when you read her articles,
  3. Engage with her via her social media presence: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter.

Please do tell her what you think, what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’d want to see – she would love to hear from you as a person versus as an anonymous data point on her analytics platforms.


This is the second article in my series about Privacy. With the rise of social media and authoritarian governments, privacy has slowly changed from becoming a right to a privilege. This series aims to help people understand how to keep a more private profile online.

EJ Arboleda is a guest writer for MommyGinger.com. He is the CEO of Taxumo Inc, an avid fan of technology, a paranoid android user, an influencer’s chubby hubby, and proud dad to a whip-smart little girl. The opinions he shared in this article are not shared by Ginger Arboleda, MommyGinger.com, nor by Taxumo Inc.

The Essential Guide To Heading Off The Beaten Track

With coronavirus forcing us to adapt to a new normal, we have had to revolutionize many different aspects of our lives. Travel is no different. Less than six months ago you could have hot-footed it to wherever you wanted on the planet without a care in the world. Fast forward to today and you need to check out quarantine legislation, R rates, and temperature checks.

Travel has become more daunting for the ardent backpacker and the holiday-maker. This doesn’t mean that travel is off the cards forever. For the foreseeable future, we may be planning our trips rather than embarking on them, but in the near future, you will be able to take a jaunt overseas again. However, you may not want to be among the tourist crowds and the busy hotspots. Instead, you might want to venture somewhere off the beaten track to stay safe and reduce your risk of catching Covid-19. Take a look at this essential guide to help you head off the beaten track.

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

Look At A Map

When you plan a travel adventure overseas, the chances are you have an idea of where you want to go in the world. You might want to trek the Inca Trail in Peru, do some temple hopping in Kyoto, Japan or take a drive along Route 66 in the United States. To head off the beaten track successfully, you need to be close enough to activities and sites without being smack bang in the middle of them.

Our trip to Japan last 2017

If you are heading to Japan, Hiroshima is a must-see city. Where the atomic bomb dropped at the end of the Second World War, this city is full of history and optimism. It’s also busy. Instead of staying here, why not hotfoot it to the neighboring island of Miyajima. Beautiful, picturesque and idyllic, you are just thirty minutes away from the city, but you can stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan far away from the crowds. The floating shrines are stunning and there are some wild deer and monkeys to get to grips with. You might even want to scale Mount Misen to see the temple on the peak.

If you fancy Thailand, don’t head to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, and take a jaunt to Nonthaburi instead. The city is rarely visited by tourists, yet it’s not far from the stunning temple-laden Lat Phrao. You could even save money by finding a cheap house for rent in Nonthaburi rather than staying in an expensive hotel in the region. You can be somewhere less dense, stay for a longer period of time, and enjoy a quieter pace of life.

GPS

If you are planning on heading off the tourist trail, make sure that you have safety as your top priority. While you might love the idea of being free from the shackles of social media and off-grid, it is still prudent to have a smartphone and GPS device on you. If traveling solo is your thing, a GPS device is vital if your set of wheels breaks down or if you get lost. A quick lookup of your coordinates can help emergency services locate and rescue you.

Smartphones are also necessary for those just in case moments. You don’t have to be scrolling through Facebook every hour of your travels, but posting photos now and again and staying in touch with family is important to many travelers no matter where they are in the world.

Image by Jonathan Valencia from Pixabay

Follow The Locals

If you are keen to see the authentic side of a destination, it’s not a good idea to go on tours set up for foreigners. You’ll see the bland and expensive face of a nation. Instead, follow the locals. If you want a great bowl of pasta in Rome, go where the Italians go. If you want some incredible dumplings in Beijing, forget following the Americans and venture where the Chinese go. They may not look the most salubrious of restaurants, but the best and most authentic eateries rarely are. 

To help you stay off the beaten track, you need to converse with the locals. This means you need to commit to learning a little bit of language. Doing this will help you earn the respect of the locals. There’s nothing more embarrassing than shouting slowly in English, expecting a local to understand you. It’s arrogant. Don’t do it. Instead, be a responsible and caring traveler, learning some of the lingo, making friends with the locals, and finding some hidden gems.

Heading off the beaten track can be exciting. Follow this guide and you can stay safe while traveling in a post-pandemic age.

Any other tips? Share it with us!

Mental Health Insights and my Thoughts about It

It’s so great to see that talking about Mental Health is not taboo anymore. I love how people are now very open to discuss things like this. Not only that. They also consider taking care of mental health to be a main concern. I watched the Globe and Inquirer #StartANewDay: Mental Health Insights for Millennials and Gen Z live session and I learned so much and felt so much.

Mental Health and the Entrepreneur

In the world of entrepreneurship and the startup industry, this has become an issue that is also widely talked about and addressed by webinars from different incubators, accelerators and startup groups.

“According to a study by Michael Freemanentrepreneurs are 50 percent more likely to report having a mental health condition, with some specific conditions being incredibly prevalent amongst founders” Tech Crunch mentions in an article. (https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/30/investors-and-entrepreneurs-need-to-address-the-mental-health-crisis-in-startup-culture/)

I’ve been thinking about this topic the whole day today. I’m sure that a lot of the founders and entrepreneurs that I have come across occasionally in my blog, in the programs that we have joined and groups that we are part of silently suffer.

Dra. Gia Sison in the live session event mentioned that people need extra support nowadays because more people are feeling depressed and anxious. Understandably so, this is because of the uncertainties we face, daily isolation, increase of domestic abuse, exposure to negative news and negative coping mechanisms.

What can we do about it?

I also loved what Roy Dahildahil said about what we can do about Mental Health. Roy is the co-founder of #MentalHealthPH, a social media advocacy group that aims to promote and protect mental health in the Philippines. He gave us the 3S’s Framework: Self, Society and System and the 3Os Framework: Online, Onground and Onward.

With this, I thought of ways I can help the community in my own little way.

Spread positivity

I think in my own little way, with this blog and my channel, I’ll commit to releasing more inspiring and positive content. I recently interviewed Trixie Esguerra and we talked about injecting positivity into your life. I hope that you can watch it and gather nuggets of wisdom and tips from her that you can actually do.

Check up on Family and Friends

From listening to the talk, I realized that I had time to check up on friends and family. See how they are doing? A chat message of a simple “hi” and “how are you?” will go a long way.

Listen and Be Observant

Some people just need someone to talk to. I love the Globe Bridging Communities has this Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HopeBankPH/ In Hope Bank PH, anyone can share anything they’d like. We are free to express ourselves.

Be observant of your friends posts and listen to their stories. Just being there goes a long way.

I hope that we continue to openly talk about this issue. Share with me other things that we can all do to address this.

I know that with little steps like this, we can all #StartaNewDay.

My Plan for My Life

There was a day when Zeeka asked me about heaven. She asked me, “Mom, where is heaven and how is it like there?” To that, I replied that heaven is where you want it to be. If you think that it’s a place where your loved ones are and you’re happy, then this or your life here on earth is heaven. If you think that God is also here with us, then maybe this is heaven.

I’d like to believe that there is something after this life when we pass away and I believe in God. How I think about life though is not a means to get to a better place (like heaven), but a vehicle to actually make this world that we live in a better place. Why wait for that better place when you have the power to create positive changes NOW?

I have a plan for my life, and this is how I view it to be:

This is my plan for my life. I know my handwriting sucks.. haha! Please bear with me!

So my first 25 years was really for learning, making mistakes, rising back up and trying again. My tip for those who are still in this part of the “life line” that I’m showing, just explore and try to do things that you’ve never done. If you’re scared to try, write down what’s the worst thing that could happen. You’ll realize that the worst thing isn’t as bad as it may seem.

Currently, I’m in a situation where I know what I stand for and what I believe in. This is where we usually find ourselves, make our own choices, see what we consider valuable and try our best to make a change in this life by utilizing our own actions.

This is also the the time that we try to grow our circle of influence. Because why not?

Just some thoughts about influence. Wanting to gain influence is not a bad thing. What you need to think about is why you want to grow or gain influence. The reason why I want to grow my circle of influence is that I have realized that the you can make huge positive changes when you reach more people. Think of it this way — the magnitude of the impact that you can create will obviously be bigger when you have a bigger circle of influence.

This is the reason why politicians or people in the government can make rules that affect the lives of a lot of people. We gave them our votes. Having said that, I digress… I have no plans of running for office. Haha!

What I stand for is really empowering the micro and small businesses and professionals in our country. I think most of you who follow my blog and vlog (https://youtube.com/gingerarboledavlog) know this and know my plan for my life.

Another thing that I’d like to do and Frances and I are really trying hard to spread the word is to connect every women to other women who can support them. We are doing this using the Lean in PH (https://www.facebook.com/groups/leaninph/) a Lean In Network that we started here in the Philippines.

Moving on, in my 50s or probably 60s and onwards toward the end of my life, I’d like to focus on helping younger people who also want to make their voices heard and who want to make this world a better place.

At the end on my life, I want to be able to say that I left the world knowing that my daughter is living in a better world because I tried to make it a better place for her.

Where did all these self-reflection come from? Haha! Just wanted to share this super duper nice feature that the Belle De Jour team has created.

This comes with a FREE eBook/Workbook that you can download here: https://shop.ilovebdj.com/blogs/news/ginger-arboleda-on-nurturing-your-gift-of-self

This really inspired me to share my thoughts today. Now, for you reading this, I’d love to get to know you. How about you?

Where are you now? What are you doing? Do you have your own life line? Share it with me by leaving a comment below or leaving a comment on social media and use #GINspiration.

Some other articles that you may want to read: