Privacy Within the System

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The most important way in which your privacy is taken from you isn't any particular invasion of it, but rather is the general erosion of your belief that you should have it at all. It is therefore important that the one place which you can actually control does not itself become an attack on your privacy.

1. GTK "Recent Files"

In about 2011, the GTK toolkit began replacing the concept of the current working directory in its FileChooser with the notion that it should just list files you've recently used. Fortunately, it is possible to fix this bug (and it is a bug, not a feature). But GTK will still collect information on the files you've recently used, and this information is visible to any program on your system which uses GTK (which means any program with a graphical interface which does not use the qt toolkit). This isn't a big deal, but it is rude. Rudeness should not be encouraged.

To fix this, in GTK2 at least:

 
cd ~/.config/gtk-2.0 

If this directory doesn't exist, create it - but it should exist. In it, open (or create, as it probably won't yet exist) a file called

 
settings.ini 

The settings.ini file should begin with the line:

 
[Settings] 

Add to it the lines:

 
gtk-recent-files-max-age=0 
gtk-recent-files-limit=0 

Then remove the existing file which already contains your recent-file history:

 
cd $HOME/.local/share 
rm recently-used.xbel 

2. NoScript

In the old days, visiting a legitimate commercial website was like meeting a travelling salesperson at your door. Today, when you do this, if you look over your shoulder you'll find that they've invited all of their suppliers and a crew of consultants into your living room to help them analyze your home so that you may have a Better Sales Experience.

It's hard to actually do anything about this. We've come to accept the right of retailers to invade your virtual living room in this way, and since the only useful shopping which can be done today is online, we have no choice.

But having no choice in a matter is different from being unaware of it. Running the FireFox "NoScript" add-on (or an equivalent in another browser) really gives you a sense - on an ongoing basis - of the degree to which your online privacy has ceased to exist. You may have to allow this activity to conduct any business, but at least with NoScript you know it's there.

3. No Nepomuk/Strigi

So-called semantic indexing (it really isn't "semantic" at all) projects such as Nepomuk and Strigi should not be running, ever. (They run by default on other Linuxes such as Ubuntu. Some of the Arch Linux packages pull them in, but to the best of my knowledge they aren't run automatically.) In addition to being annoying drains on your system's CPU and disk resources, these programs present a nice packaged survey of your system to anyone who might manage to break into it.


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