In light of Ashley Madison, I thought it would be a good time to share my two cents on what really happens when you type your information into an online database. You know, all those “getting to know you” forms, questionnaires, confessions. When you filled out that form and hit send, where does the information disappear to? If you think it just floated off into the never land of the World Wide Web, you are right. But it didn’t just disappear – and it never ever will.
For years I ran a website, first as a busy escort, then as a madam of a popular escort agency in Las Vegas. I’ve utilized those forms many times – to schedule appointments, receive email, create a mailing list, maintain a database of clients, to conduct business. I’ll tell you what really happens to all that information, where it goes, how long it stays, and who can read it.
Eavesdroppers not allowed
When you fill out a form online, you may have noticed a pop up window saying, “This website isn’t SSL encrypted”, or “This website is SSL encrypted”. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. What that means is the website you’re visiting creates a secure connection between the server before transmitting your sensitive information over the web. That way it’s not just floating out there for hackers to stumble across. My business used those SSL encrypted keys, but it doesn’t really protect everyone as much as it’s thought, because what happens to that information after it’s transferred is where the real leaks begin.
Another thing you might read is, “Website hosted on an offshore server”. This helps you some, but it’s really only a big deal if you’re breaking the law – by hiring escorts, gambling online, buying illegal drugs, searching for an offshore bank account – you know, illegal things.
What an offshore server means is the website you’re visiting doesn’t store it’s information in the United States. Therefore, USA laws don’t apply. The laws of the country where the server is, are the only laws that count. So gambling may route through the Dominican Republic, or Denmark or wherever the laws are currently lax about gambling. The idea is that if the website organization gets busted by the FEDS, they’ll have a harder time serving a subpoena since there are no laws requiring the server in that offshore country to hand over their sensitive details. Sound a little shady? Well it is. But as long as the website owner stays on top of international laws, and makes sure that particular country doesn’t establish trade agreements with the USA, you should be somewhat okay.
However, since it’s probably in a developing nation (hence the lax laws) that also means server speed is compromised. And maintenance or telephone support is likely in a language few people can speak. All this is bad for business. Is there an easy way? Perhaps finding the perfect country that is between developing and developed so the server is faster but laws are loose? Maybe… but switching servers every few months to the countries that meet those requirements means more downtime which, again, is bad for business.
But the details you typed into that form which is sent through the offshore account is also sent to email. Most email read in the states makes its way stateside, and is stored stateside. Even though it may say @(ourwebsite) it’s often a gmail, or other stateside host account. Gmail and those other hosts have all the fancy perks, like two-step verification that takes steps to prevent hackers from breaking in.
Of course, websites will always assure you, your information is safe.
Business ensure the safety of client’s information. We did. And we took all above precautions. We hosted offshore. We used encrypted transfer. We had two-step verification on. But did that prevent our email account from being hacked? It did not.
Does doing all the above prevent an escorts email account from being accessed by a husband seeking revenge? Does it prevent a pimp from taking down your information because he decides you’re his next blackmail victim?
Does it prevent Ashley Madison hackers from hacking into their database? Or will it prevent Tinder (another social media platform for “naughty daters”) from being exposed?
Holy Moly you say, please tell me there are ways around this!?
Don’t give out your real information. Plain and simple. We could all learn a little from the sex industry. Use a fake name. Get a burner phone. You know, one of those cheap, pay-per-minute, disposable ones. But make sure you don’t buy it under your real name and you always pay in cash. (Or a prepaid credit card) and don’t ever use that same prepaid credit card for something that needs your name and address (like an online purchase).
Every time you browse from your computer, your computer sends a code, like a fingerprint, a number unique to you, to the website your visiting, to google, to the WWW. It’s your IP address and It looks something like this 98.782.44.679. Try it, type in IP address and you’ll see your very own ‘computer social security number’, that you send out every single time you browse the web.
When you send an email or visit a website, this IP address is saved. Forever. That is how pedophiles are caught. If you want to know the IP address of any email you received, open that email, press the little arrow in the upper right, and click ‘show original’, you’ll extract the html code of that email, find the senders IP address, plug it into another website like IP Tracker, and you’re given the exact location of the sender.
You can only imagine how helpful that would be for an escort agency. Knowing if a stalker is emailing, or the police, a disgruntled ex boyfriend. And so on.
Hide your IP address, bypass internet censorship and geo-restricted sites.
There’s a solution for that too. It’s called an anonymous VPN, or virtual private network. For example, Hide My Ass. Or the TOR browser. Both of them redirect your web browsing through several different servers hosted around the world. No one can track your personal IP address. TOR also cuts through web censorship and allows you to access places like the Dark Web. On the Dark Web you will not find site that google and other goodie-law-abiding companies adhere to.
But wait, you’re not safe yet.
A little more food for thought. There is software that can be installed on your laptop, desktop, or phone, by a suspicious partner, or boss, or anyone who has access to it for a few minutes. It will track every click, GPS travel history, web browsing, email replies, and so on.
Stories about personal tracking are not a myth.
“Best $99 purchase I’ve ever made”, a pimp I used to work with once told me. He took all his girls cell phones and installed tracking software on every single one – so he could keep track of them from the sidelines. All someone needs are 3 minutes with your device. They call the 1-800 number, type in a code, and your device now has its own folder on their website. They can visit that website anytime to determine what you’ve been up to. Legal? Hope. But that doesn’t stop snooping wives or disgruntled husbands. You can only imagine the potential damage.
So you really want to erase your tracks?
Use fake information.
Use a Burner phone (or even better, a pay phone, and even more better a pay phone that is not next to a camera, so stay away from pay phones near convenience stores, etc)
And go to an Internet cafe that takes cash for your “questionable browsing”.
So, all those times you think you’re being discreet and careful by visiting a site like Ashley Madison for your promiscuity purposes, or you visit casual encounters on Craigslist, or you’re ordering a date from an escort who is listed on one of those boutique websites you think no one will ever find out, think again!
Once you put your information out there on the World Wide Web, on the World Wide Web is where it’s going to stay. No matter what you do. You can’t press the back button and you can’t delete it. Once you send it through the internet to someone else, it belongs to them. Info, names, email address, phone numbers, IP addresses, anything and everything in a database is in a database. Period.
It’s not rocket science.
If all this sounds like crazy hassles and you prefer to avoid it all together, just don’t do it It really is that simple.
Even if you’re not “a person who has to worry about all this stuff” protecting your privacy should still be a concern for everyone. Throw receipts away. Use a non-tracing browser. Go into your account settings in google and change your personal info and privacy activity control settings. You’ll be surprised at what they have stored.
Don’t believe me, just google it.
These thoughts and opinions are those of the author only. They shouldn’t be construed as fact, and are not admissible in the court of law. They are for entertainment value only. By reading this article, you agree to these terms.