Rad Apps: Tips For Unsurveiled Web Browsing

By James Staub for Boston Compass (#125)

July 25, 2020


Social media companies ⁢⁣⁡⁢‌⁡⁢‌‍⁡‌⁡‍⁢‌‍⁡⁢⁢‍⁢⁡⁢⁡‌⁤‍⁢‌‌‌⁤‌‍⁢⁡‌‌‍⁡‌‌⁣‌⁡‌‍⁢⁢‌‍⁡⁢‌⁢⁢‌‍⁡⁢‍⁢‍⁡‍‌‌⁣⁡‌⁢⁢⁡‍⁡‌⁢⁡⁣⁤‍⁡⁢‍⁡‌‍‌‍⁢‍⁡‌‍⁤⁣‍⁤‍⁡⁣‍⁤‍⁤‌‍⁡⁢‍⁢⁡‌⁣⁢⁡‍‌⁤‌⁡‌‍⁢⁤⁢⁡‍⁤⁢⁡⁢⁡⁣‌⁡‌⁡‌‍⁡‍⁡⁢‌‌‌‌‌⁢⁡⁢‍⁢⁢‍⁡⁣‌⁢‍⁢⁢⁣⁤⁡‍‌⁢⁢⁢⁢⁢‌⁡‌⁢⁢⁣⁢‌⁢‌‌‍‌‌‌‍⁢⁢‌‌⁢‍‌have commodified you. They got rich by selling your behavioral data which can be used to predict and influence you, while addicting you to the stimulation and necessity of their platforms. There’s a lot of momentum to further centralize the internet in service of this business model.

Among the many implications of this aggregation and commercialization of human consciousness, the events of the past month reveal a glaring vulnerability in how social movements organize. We are trusting a small handful of companies with total control over the ability to share important videos, host our event planning, and to expose us to the majority of our news and information.

Here are a few concepts and tools for independent, unsurveiled web browsing, file sharing and communication.


Peer to Peer

P2P means a system where 2 or more computers connect to exchange data directly. The vast majority of websites and apps consist of information being served to us from a 3rd party server.

  • Beaker Browser is an alternative web browser that lets you build hostless websites and applications.

  • Beam.cafe is a nifty tool for P2P filesharing. (think dropbox without giving data to a corporation)

End to End Encryption

Implies that data shared between 2 users by way of a third party can only be accessed by the end users, and the third party (eg. whatsapp (ie. facebook)) does not hold the keys.

What’s app, Signal, Riot and Telegram are e2e encrypted chat apps. Gmail is not end-to-end encrypted, so they can use your email text to build personality profiles about you.

VPN

A service that secures and anonymizes your internet traffic by routing it through a computer at a different location. Your connection to the VPN is encrypted so the data exchanged between you and a website appears to be coming from somewhere else in the world.

VPNs are used to access websites otherwise blocked in a given region. A crucial tool for truly private browsing.

Check out TunnelBear.

Meshnet

An alternative internet infrastructure that uses line-of-sight connections between rooftop antennae. This is the thing we’re gonna wish we had spent some time working on when the solar flare hits.

Check out bostonmeshnet.github.io

Steganography

A technique for hiding a secret message in plain sight. Unlike encryption which converts data into an obviously unreadable blob, digital steganography uses hidden characters to encode a message which can be decrypted with a password.

The first sentence of the online version of this column contains a secret message.

To find it:

  1. visit stegcloak.surge.sh

  2. select and copy the first sentence of this post and paste it into the Reveal section of stegcloak

  3. Use the password compass and click get secret


James Staub is a musician and coder living in Jamaica Plain, where he often writes code which makes music.

insta: @jamesastaub

twitter: @mmuddywires

music: jamesstaub.com

—James Staub


Check out all the art and columns of July's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass