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Dark Patterns: Surveillance Capitalism and Business Ethics

The Dark Patterns Workshop explores corporate surveillance and its implications for privacy and autonomy.

Digital Shred Privacy Literacy Toolkit

Case Studies

Current Awareness

Digging Deeper

How-tos & Toolkits

Learn practical tips on safeguarding your privacy with the following links.


For additional terms and definitions, refer to Electronic Frontier Foundation's Surveillance Self-Defense glossary.

Algorithm - in data mining, a series of steps used to analyze large data sets to detect patterns and clusters. (More info)

Big data - the collection, storage, and analysis of large volumes of data in order to derive new insights, which originated in business intelligence. (More info)

Browser extension (aka browser plugin) - a small piece of software that adds functionality to a web browser. (More info)

Browser fingerprint - The various properties of your web browser or computer that a web site can notice when you visit. They may be slightly different from other browsers or computers, which can be a way to recognize you even if you didn't log in, even if your computer doesn't save cookies, and even if you connect to the Internet from a different network in the future.  (More info)

Cookies - Cookies are a web technology that let websites recognize your browser. They enable tracking and profiling so sites can recognize you and learn more about where you go, which devices you use, and what you are interested in – even if you don't have an account with that site, or aren't logged in.  (More info)

Data tracks (aka data exhaust; data trails) - data automatically generated by online behaviors that can be collected and analyzed. (More info)

Encryption - a technique for safeguarding the privacy of communication by scrambling the original text (aka plain text) so that it can only be decoded (decrypted) by the intended user. (More info)

End-to-end encryption - ensures that a message is turned into a secret message by its original sender, and decoded only by its final recipient. End-to-end encryption is generally regarded as safer, because it reduces the number of parties who might be able to interfere or break the encryption.  (More info)

HTTPS - HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) is the way a web browser on your machine talks to a remote web server. Standard http sends text insecurely across the Internet. HTTPS (the S stands for “secure”) uses encryption to better protect the data you send to websites, and the information they return to you, from prying eyes.  (More info)

IP address - A device on the Internet needs its own address to receive data, just like a home or business needs a street address to receive physical mail. This address is its IP (Internet Protocol) address. When you connect to a web site or other server online, you usually reveal your own IP address. (More info)

Metadata (or "data about data") - everything about a piece of information, apart from the information itself. So the content of a message is not metadata, but who sent it, when, where from, and to whom, are all examples of metadata. (More info)

Tracking pixel - A tracking pixel is an HTML code snippet which is loaded when a user visits a website or opens an email. It is used to track user behavior and conversions. These tracking pixels are partly or fully designed to be transparent, or camouflaged in the background color of the website so that they don't stand out to users. Users are usually not supposed to see the tracking pixel. (More info)

Two-factor authentication - Login systems that require only a username and password risk being broken when someone else can obtain (or guess) those pieces of information. Services that offer two-factor authentication also require you to provide a separate confirmation that you are who you say you are. The second factor could be a one-off secret code, a number generated by a program running on a mobile device, or a device that you carry and that you can use to confirm who you are.  (More info)

VPN (virtual private network) - method for connecting your computer securely to the network of an organization on the other side of the Internet. When you use a VPN, all of your computer's Internet communications is packaged together, encrypted and then relayed to this other organization, where it is decrypted, unpacked, and then sent on to its destination. To the organization's network, or any other computer on the wider Internet, it looks like your computer's request is coming from inside the organization, not from your location.  (More info)