On June 5, 2013, Edward Snowden released classified NSA documents, causing ripples of distrust and anger to not only boil up within America, but throughout the world. Since the news broke, many have wondered what it means for the average individual. Should you be worried? Or does it even really matter, because you have nothing to hide . . . right? Those debates will sift through the public discourse in one form or another. But while those arguments rage on, let’s take a look at how using a few simple tools can help protect your right to privacy in the digital age.
To protect your web browsing privacy:
Install Disconnect (a Firefox/Chrome browser extension). Named one of the 100 Best Innovations of the Year by Popular Science, Disconnect lets you visualize and block the otherwise invisible websites that track your search and browsing history. It is available from the add-on stores of both Firefox and Chrome.
Install Adblock Plus (a Firefox/Chrome browser extension) to block annoying video ads on YouTube, Facebook ads, banners, and much more. It is also available from the add-on stores of both Firefox and Chrome.
Install Better Privacy (a Firefox browser extension). Better Privacy protects against special long-term cookies, a new generation of “super cookie,” which has silently conquered the Internet. This new cookie generation offers unlimited user tracking to industry and market research. Better Privacy is available from Firefox’s add-on store.
Install Tor (called Orbot on Android). Tor software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world. It prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and allows you to access sites which are blocked. Learn more at www.torproject.org.
Install HTTPS Everywhere (a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation). HTTPS Everywhere encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure. Learn more at www.eff.org.
Install Tails. Tails is a Tor network-based, “live” operating system (one not installed on the local hard drive) that can be launched on almost any computer right from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card. It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity by using state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails, and instant messages. Tor helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship, leaving no trace on the computer you are using. Learn more at tails.boum.org.
To protect your messaging privacy:
Install Wickr or ChatSecure (encrypted phone messaging), available from your phone’s app store.
Look for any application that allows you to choose the option of “off the record” messaging, which allows encryption at both ends of a conversation.