Even with massive challenges to NSA activity, the US government will fight relentlessly against any efforts to expose the NSA, charge Clapper, or even reduce the current mass-surveillance activities. If you have don’t understand why the powers-that-be have this incentive, take a step back and look at what the NSA is offering to US leaders:
We’re now in an information arms race. But unlike other historical analogies that might be cited, the scale of our storage and processing capabilities are immense and extremely powerful, and that changes the game. Simple private bits of our lives which we take for granted are now being stored indefinitely. Things like:
- renting a sexy video
- calling an overseas relative
- emailing an off-color joke to a friend
- marital infidelity
- seeking help for depression
- signing a petition
- filing a grievance
- responding to a grievance
Whether it’s a moment of indiscretion, or just an unfortunate circumstance is irrelevant. It is being recorded, and can be used against you at any time in the future.
Imagine that information in the hands of:
- your boss who wants to lower your wages
- a candidate who is opposing you for a council position
- your health insurer who wants to decline your health coverage
- a neighbor that doesn’t like you
- a criminal or sociopath who wants to increase their own wealth and power
- the town gossip
- someone who wants to buy your house
The development of big-data dramatically shifts the playing field in favor of those who can access information which is unavailable to the rest of us.
The sustainable solution will require us to find policies which enable us to co-exist in this new world of big-data. But we need to hang on long enough for our rather dysfunctional social systems and governments to evolve adequately. For this, we need to buy time by holding on to at least some of our digital privacy.
Here are a few steps to make global surveillance more difficult.
- Start using encryption routinely (see technical measures, below). This doesn’t prevent spying, but it makes it quite a bit harder. It also slows the erosion of privacy by making encryption the norm, not the exception. Encrypt information at rest (eg, Truecrypt), and information in transit (eg, HTTPS Everywhere).
- Follow and support groups that are protecting your digital rights (see below). These groups are the most organized digital advocates in existence. But they need your moral support and your cash to do their job.
- Educate your neighbors, your friends, your colleagues. US mainstream media is pretty lame, these days, so you need to help your fellow citizens, especially Americans, to understand what is at stake. They’re going to also have to get off their butts.
- Support good independent journalism. Whether a blog, The Guardian, or your local newspaper, a free-press is a necessary part of the Democratic process.
- Get out from behind the computer, and join a local civic group. The US political system is very dysfunctional, and it isn’t going to fix itself anytime soon… it’s going to keep getting worse with every day that goes by. The options are to change it from within the framework, or work from the outside… but it has to change soon, and that’s only going to happen if enough people wake up. Perhaps join /r/restorethefourth
Technical measures: - You may not be able to do all of these, but do what you can. You can change your browser home-page, right?
- Browser Privacy: HTTPS Everywhere, AdBlock Plus + EasyList + EasyPrivacy, Expert: NoScript (FireFox), Expert: NotScript (Chrome)
- VPNs: Private Internet Access (US), BTGuard (Canada), ItsHidden (Africa), Ipredator (Sweden), Faceless.me (Cyprus / Netherlands), Additional list
- Internet Anonymization: Tor, Tor Browser Bundle, I2P
- Disk Encryption: TrueCrypt (Windows / OSX / Linux), File Vault (Mac).
- File/Email Encryption: GPGTools + GPGMail (Mac), Enigmail (Windows / OSX / Linux)
- IM Encryption: Pidgin + Pidgin OTR, Cryptocat, Gibberbot (Android), ChatSecure (iOS)
- IM/Voice Encryption: Mumble, Jitsi
- Phone/SMS Encryption: WhisperSystems, Ostel, Spore, Silent Circle ($$$)
- Steganography: OpenStego, SilentEye, Csteganography, Adaptive Steganography
- Search (Google Alternative): DuckDuckGo, StartPage, Yacy, Ixquick
- Digital P2P Currency: BitCoin
- Live Anonymous/Secure Linux: TAILS Linux
- IP blocking: Peerblock (Windows)
- Stop using Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Skype, etc., and avoid large US based IT services that you don’t trust. If the US government and corporations can’t resist the temptation to work against your best interests, you certainly don’t want to feed them with revenue and data.
In selecting these packages, strong preference was given to Free-Open Source Software (FOSS) which enables source-code review. None of these packages ensures anonymity or privacy, but by using them intelligently, you can seriously reduce your Internet tracks. If you have suggestions/feedback about related technologies, please post in /r/privacy so we can get some group insight.
If you have any problems installing or using the above software, please contact the projects. They need both users and feedback. And if you can, support these projects with your time or your cash to help make them sustainable. Even if you can’t use all of them, use some of them, and help others to use them, too.
Have no clue what Cryptography is or why you should care? Checkout the Crypto Party Handbook or the EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defense Project.
Just want some simple tips? Checkout EFF’s Top 12 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy.
Digital Rights Advocacy Groups: - These US based nonprofit, and nonpartisan groups are at the forefront of figuring out how to protect Digital Rights as fundamental Human Rights.
Education: - Are your colleagues telling you that they have nothing to hide?