Thursday 07 November, 2013
If you pay any attention to current events, you know that the United States government is keeping tabs on everything you do online (whether you’re an American citizen or a foreign head of state!). In fact, they’re building a new massive data center in Utah to store all this digital data about your Facebook activity.
It seems ludicrous and it’s pretty obvious that the government is only doing it because it can. As comedian Bill Maher points out, even with everyone’s emails and Skype chats, they still can’t seem to catch any terrorists. But still, it sets a chilling precedent and it’s just plain wrong.
Privacy is an American tradition. In generations past, nobody viewed privacy suspiciously. It was a given that the government shouldn’t be snooping in your personal affairs. Although it’s a common adage that everything you do online is watched, there are ways to use the internet with privacy.
First of all, don’t use any of the companies or services that have handed over user data to the NSA. Unfortunately, that’s a long list that includes the most popular websites in earth. It includes cloud services, website encryption, Wi-Fi, 4G networks, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, Apple, your phone, your credit card, your email address, your bank account and probably any other social media you use.
Sure, that includes just about everything. But all of the above are known snitches and you’re not safe using them.
The Tor Network
One option for internet surfing is to use the Tor network. This is an anonymous network designed specifically to protect internet users’ privacy. However, it’s not totally safe. The NSA specifically targets Tor users because of their audacity and disrespect for its authority in trying to protect their privacy. How dare they! But if you use Tor, they’ll have a harder time collecting your data.
Encrypt Your Emails
There’s much better encryption you can use for emails than what your email service provides. You can encrypt your emails but it’s slightly more complicated because both parties (the sender and receiver) need to agree to it. However, email encryption offers an excellent level of security. You may want to consider this especially for sensitive business emails.
Get online and shop for privacy add-ons. These are tools that you can download to protect your privacy like TextSecure for text messaging or Orbot for your Android OS. There are too many to name here and new ones constantly being developed. There are likely to be even more as people get increasingly concerned over NSA spying.
Private Search Engines
There are private search engines like StartPage that don’t store history, allow cookies, or allow tracking. StartPage is totally anonymous but brings great search results because they’re generated by Google. But don’t use the private browsing mode offered by your browser like Internet Explorer’s InPrivate Browsing because they offer little or no protection. Websites can still monitor your computer.
The Air Gap
There’s always the air gap. Keep sensitive information off the internet. Build one computer to use without an internet connection. Save files to an internet-connected computer, download them to a USB drive and walk it over. This is the only surefire way to protect what you do on a PC.
The Silver Lining
The silver lining to all of this NSA spying is that it has gotten people more concerned about their privacy online. As this concern grows, there will be more secure options for those of us who don’t like being spied on.