Reclaiming Territory in Cyberspace: #3 The world wide web
Browsers are more than just windows into the web.
This is one of the most critical posts in the series. The primary battlefield in the information war is the world wide web. A majority of internet users aren’t actually users. They are captives of digital kingdoms that harvest their data, control their interactions, and manipulate them. Breaking free requires not only escaping these digital fiefdoms but also helping others do the same.
Understanding the battlefield
The world wide web is a network of networks. You connect to it through your ISP (internet service provider). Your ISP will then connect to large networks that act as the backbone of the internet. This is what allows almost anyone to connect to all kinds of different sites and services.
When you load a website here is what happens:
Your browser does a DNS query asking for the IP address of the server.
It then downloads the page, and any data and media associated with that page.
As it displays the content of that page, any additional scripts running on that page will start automatically.
Websites can have all kinds of content on them. Beyond simple text and images there can be video, audio, as well as interactive content. Extra content isn’t always good. Many times your browser can be downloading media and assets from sources that track the people accessing that content. This one of the ways Facebook, Google, and other Big Tech companies are able to track your browsing habits.
Scripts running on pages can do a wide multitude of things, from dynamically updating content on the page, to fingerprinting you to identify you specifically. While you can turn off scripts, many sites will unnecessarily gate content behind scripts and often an account as well. This trains people into constantly handing over more and more personal information in exchange for basic access. This is has fundamentally altered the web from an open information resource to a highly controlled technological terror.