If you’re not already worried about your digital privacy, you probably should be. Personal data is a big business, after all, with companies gathering every bit of information about us they can. That includes our search histories, the websites we visit, the products we purchase, the people we’re connected to, and even the kind of sensitive information that can be used to access our financial accounts or steal our identities, like date and place of birth.
Then there are hackers to contend with. It’s shockingly easy to tap into someone else’s security cameras, for instance — or their baby monitors. In the near future, almost everything in our homes will be connected to the internet, from our lights to our refrigerators, offering virtually endless opportunities for invasion of our privacy. Lucky for us all, a new product called the Winston aims to help us reclaim control.
This plug-and-play hardware privacy filter works on all devices in your home network, including your computers, tablets, smartphones, gaming systems, and smart home gadgets like security systems. Offering an alternative to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which only work with a single device and can be slow, the Winston catches all sorts of privacy invasions, from the smallest to the most concerning. That includes non-consensual third party collection, surveillance, ad tracking, pop-ups, and more.
The Winston also encrypts data so hackers and ISPs can’t intercept your information, monitors incoming and outgoing traffic, allows you to use streaming service sites without slow-downs, intelligently filters cookies, decreases data usage, hides your physical location, and speeds up your internet by getting rid of all the junk traffic associated with tracking your activity. The best part, according to the makers, is that it all sets up within 60 seconds with a set-and-forget operation.
Winston Privacy Founder and CEO Richard Stokes wrote an op-ed on Fast Company explaining why the “surveillance economy” spurred him to create the device.
“It was a little over two years ago that I realized the ad-tech industry had gone too far. I was an executive at a global advertising company, watching a demo from a third-party data provider on how they could help with ad targeting. Their representative brazenly demonstrated how he could pull up his own personal record and share with us his income, his mortgage details, where he worked, what kind of car he drove, which political party he was likely to vote for, and his personal interests (craft beer, of course). It was everything, all in one place.”
“When I looked around the room that day, many of my colleagues seemed alarmed. Up until that point, the advertising industry had asked people to trust us with their data. We were about to go back on that promise. I left the ad-tech industry shortly thereafter.”
Clearly, Stokes isn’t the only one who’s concerned. Thousands of backers pledged over $1 million USD to fund the project on crowdfunding websites Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The Winston is currently in production and should be available to the general public later this year. The retail price is expected to run $249.