Girl Geek X

Girl Geek X

Definitely Does Compute: Women’s IRL & Online Self-Defense

At the Pinterest Girl Geek Dinner, we briefly met Firefox girl geek Sierra Reed, who later invited us to a “Women’s IRL & Online Self-Defense Class” – which was informative and interactive!

A group of women were gathered to learn practical self-defense skills to be used anytime online and offline. Thank you to Firefox for hosting this great workshop pairing in one compact evening in San Francisco!

Led by Firefox’s head of women and web literacy Amira Dhalla, the workshop began with a discussion of password-setting. Who knew passwords were so easy to guess? The shortlist of password reminder questions narrow your options to a few popular choices, or easily searchable / discoverable words.

We pulled out laptops and ran some tests to see how trackable our web browsing habits are by companies (very much so). By the end of the workshop, we downloaded and enabled Privacy Badger in our web browsers to track who’s tracking YOU – limiting the spying ads and invisible tracks with a FREE tool from the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit for a more inclusive, accessible and open web).

To clean your Chrome browser history of cookies, use Click ‘n Clean. And to make sure your connections with websites are secure where possible, take advantage of HTTPS Everywhere, an extension for Firefox and Chrome web browsers.

After learning about defensive security online, we participated in a Krav Maga self-defense class where we practiced kicking, punching with the bottom of our palms, yelling and other defensive posturing and strategies.

From the Krav Maga self-defense hints handout: “Learning self-defense is not just about learning to kick and punch an attacker. Self-defense begins with not thinking of yourself as a victim. Attackers choose their victims the way predators choose their prey. They always go after the sick, isolated, young or old because they are an easy kill. If you look strong, alert and healthy, you have a much better chance of being left alone.”

What was interesting was hearing how many women at the workshop believe that the biggest Internet companies are spying on our devices, only to serve ads to us.

There was strong agreement that we need to protect ourselves online, so here are some tips on how to get started:

Detox Your Web Browser

Did you know you can go under cover? Firefox, Chrome and Safari offer a private browsing mode, and Firefox and Safari also have a permanent private browsing mode. Here’s how:

In Firefox, go to Preferences » Privacy » Tracking > and check “Use Tracking Protection in Private Windows”. Then go to History » Use Custom Settings For History » Always Use Private Browsing Mode.

To see all the data that Google has saved about you, go to Google’s Data Download when you are logged into Google. This doesn’t delete the info, but knowledge is power. You probably want to complete the Security Checkup & Privacy Checkup to manage your visibility settings and the data that Google uses to personalize your experience.

Detox Your Facebook Account of Unwanted Ads

To reclaim your identity on Facebook, log in and go to Settings » Privacy and select “Friends” for Who can look you up using the email/phone number you provided?, and select “No” for Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?”.

That’s a start. Now for the important part – detoxing advertising on Facebook! In Settings » Ads, select “No” for “Can you see online interest-based ads from Facebook?” – This is known as behavioral retargeting, which in this case means what you do off of Facebook can be tracked and used as advertising opportunities on Facebook if you select “Yes”. Be sure you select “No One” for “Who can see your social actions paired with ads?”. If you select “Friends” here, advertisers will be able to target your friends with ads based on your likes and shares.

You can further audit your Facebook Ad Preferences and remove any strange items.

Follow and learn more from the @EFF, a well-funded non-profit dedicated to “defending civil liberties in the digital world.” As TechRepublic asked this week, “Mozilla [Firefox] is desperately needed to save the web, but does it stand a chance?

We sure hope so.

Special thanks to the girl geeks at Mozilla Firefox – Amira Dhalla, Sierra Reed and Liz Hull – for organizing and inviting the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner organizers to their self-defense workshop in 2017!

Take the intensive 8-day Data Detox from Mozilla and Tactical Tech to reclaim some of your personal privacy online and detox on the data available about you on the web.

Want to help other women on the web remain strong and secure? You can start your own Mozilla club to bring awareness and education of safety and security online to your local community.

Additional Reading

Mathematician and the author Cathy O’Neil wrote Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy published in September:


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