With the extent recently revealed NSA domestic spying program, codenamed PRISM, we’ve all become aware of the reality of something we always knew, but didn’t know the details of — that the government is watching we we do online. Revelations exposed include that the NSA has “backdoors” into major web companies including Google, Apple, Verizon and Facebook among others. According to whistleblowers, this program works to intercept emails, chat logs, photos, audio, and video on these sites and can in some cases watch you as you type. This program appears to not be limited, but an attempt to collect and index all data about everyone, including law abiding citizens.
Even if you are not doing anything shady or illegal, the desire to protect your online identity is more important now than ever. Here are the top tools and tips for masking your online identity.
- Connect to the internet using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN encrypts all your internet traffic and anonymizes your IP address. For best results, choose a VPN service that allows you to send your traffic overseas. Private Internet Access, HMA (update: see comments below about HMA), BTGuard, and all have servers operating in Canada, Europe, and Asia.
- Don’t use Gmail for your email. Everything you send or receive is being permanently logged and indexed by Google, and shared with the US Government. Cancel your Google account and purchase your own domain name and a web hosting account to assure that YOU have access to your email and no one else. For an added level of privacy and anonymity, use an anonymous email service.
- If you’re attached to Facebook, and can’t live without it, then be sure you log out when you’re not using it. When you surf the web, any website that uses Facebook SHARE or LIKE buttons is sending your identity back to Facebook. Don’t let Facebook know about every single site you go to, so log out, or better yet, cancel your Facebook account altogether.
- Clear you browser cookies often. Cookies allow companies to track your web movements across multiple sites. This data is collected by Big Data businesses, and is shared with the government.
- Enable your web browser’s “Do Not Track” option, which requests that websites not track your movements. Although websites are required to respect the Do Not Track request, enabling this option will block some sites from logging your visits.
Have more tips on how to protect yourself from the NSA’s spying program? Please leave your tips in the comments below.