Our government spying on us inside our own country is indeed worrisome. So much that eight major tech companies are pushing back for reform on how the government monitors its citizens. These companies are Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo and AOL (Yes it’s still alive). To summarize the intent of these companies in pressing for reform, they want the monitoring to be more specific. Not broad like it is now. For details about this open letter they drafted about how to get your internet privacy back, read here .
The trouble with doing the NSA’s job is they don’t always know specifically where to look for the bad guys online in this current information age. There’s millions of people online, all talking and chatting about everything under the sun. How do they know who is a threat and who is not? They can’t… it’s impossible to hire enough people to monitor the entire internet day and night. So their solution is to justify (basically) making a copy of EVERYTHING and then sifting through it later with computers. So then when another idiot tries to wreck another plane flight, fails, and gets his iPhone siezed… it doesn’t matter that the contacts and call history are all deleted. The NSA just plugs in his number to their huge database of all phone calls made in the US for the last 6 months (copied from his cellular provider’s billing records) and voila, they have some solid evidence to move on and try to hunt further up the food chain.
If you’ve been doing some Christmas shopping online and then visited your favorite social website, pay attention to the ads that show there on the social site. They are going to be the same products or related products to what you were just shopping for. Wouldn’t it be nice to get your internet privacy back? This happens because of something called tracking cookies. Tracking cookies are very small text files that your browser usually keeps to set preferences on different websites you visit. Some remember your username and type it in to the page for you as soon as you get there. Others change font sizes so those with poor eyesight don’t have to redo the settings for large fonts. Advertisers can enter information in these cookies to keep track of what stuff you’ve been shopping for online and then social media sites take that information and use it to serve up “relevant advertisements”. You can get more information about how the NSA uses them at the Electronic Frontier Foundation website.
What can I do? There are some simple basic measures you can take to stop a lot of the spying and advertising going on and in turn get your internet privacy back (most of it anyways). First, use a good browser like Chrome or Firefox. Second, install a few plugins or addons like HTTPS Everywhere, and then install a script blocker like NoScript. Set aside some time to use these new additions and thoroughly read the tutorials. These are “whitelist” apps. They learn what websites to trust from your input, and they block everything else. So… if you play around with them a while you will be able to figure out what websites are serving up advertisements, sending cookies, etc etc.. and you will be able to do a pretty good job of blocking the unwanted stuff by teaching these apps who you want to trust and who you don’t want to trust.
For your cell phone, there are a few secure messaging apps like Wickr, Redphone and Textsecure . These, along with a good antivirus software would give me enough peace of mind to say not just any beginner hacker can get in to my phone. These tips summarize a few ways you can get your internet privacy back. Thank you for reading. Please feel free to leave any comments or suggest the apps you use to take back your privacy.