I’m Watching You!

In the last couple of years the world has learned more and more about how some websites store information on you. As the world is becoming more aware of this concept, you can see a trend arising where people are beginning to protest and develop an aversion against this phenomenon.

It all started when Edward Snowden leaked about the existence of the PRISM surveillance program in June 2013, under which the USA collects Internet communications from at least nine major US Internet companies, including Google (Gellman and Pointras, 2013). The acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook in 2014 sparked this conversation once more, as one of the new terms of agreement of WhatsApp would be that Facebook is allowed to store all content sent via WhatsApp (Smith, 2014; Page, 2014). Since then, many applications or websites focused on user-privacy have gained popularity all over the globe.

Graph 1
Graph 1
For example, the amount of search queries for the words ‘incognito mode’ on Google spiked halfway 2013, showing an increased interest in this browser extension (graph 1). In addition, the Dutch government made it compulsory for websites to ask permission from the use before starting to track cookies and finally, a number of privacy focused search engines have increased immensely in popularity, such as DuckDuckGo and Hulbee.com. The amount of search queries on DuckDuckGo increased from 54.4 million to 105.6 million requests per month (graph 2), after Snowden’s revelations on PRISM (Kumparak, 2014) and Hulbee.com just announced that it raised 9 million dollars to invest in its pro-privacy search engine (Lomas, 2015).

Graph 2
Graph 2
All of these examples show that we are starting to become aware of what happens behind the scenes at for example Facebook, WhatsApp and Google.  It also shows that we are increasingly trying to find ways to limit the amount of information these companies have on us. And even though this trend is only on its way for 2 years or so, it might very well be that it soon will start to snowball and take up an even more prevalent spot in the way we surf the Internet.

– Kumparak, G. (2014) DuckDuckGo’s popularity exploded in 2013 following the NSA/PRISM leaks, http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/12/duckduckgos-popularity-exploded-in-2013-following-the-nsaprism-leaks/, 08-201-2015
– Gellman, B. and Poitras, L. (2013) US Intelligence Mining Data from Nine U.S. Internet Companies in Broad Secret Program, The Washington post, 15 June 2013
– Smith, L. (2014) Facebook likes Whatsapp and buys it in $19bn deal, The Independent, 19 February 2014
– Page, C. (2014) Facebook’s Whatsapp buy is a privacy nightmare for users, but I makes sense for the social network, The Independent, 20 February 2014
– google.com (2015) Google trend on ‘incognito mode’https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=incognito%20mode, 08-10-2015
– Lomas, N. (2015) Hulbee bags $9M to grow its pro-privacy search engine, http://techcrunch.com/ 2015/10/07/hulbee-angel-round/, 08-10-2015


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