7 Powerful Ways to Maintain Your Privacy and Integrity Online


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PrivacyThe recent NSA leaks from whistleblower Ed Snowden have publicly confirmed that digital privacy does not exist.  The federal government and intelligence agencies have direct server access to the world’s most popular sites and services including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and more.  This means that all of your data when using these services including Skype, YouTube, etc has been compromised and can be used against you whenever strategically necessary.

Always remember, you are being recorded and monitored regardless of whether you have done anything wrong or not.  This includes your emails, internet activity, searches, banking activity, passwords, etc.  Basically everything to build a complete profile about who you are, how you think, how you live, etc.  This is very powerful data gathering and the goal of the intelligence agencies is nothing less than Total Information Awareness to be used to control and manage populations.

For these reasons, I have compiled some helpful tips to help you maintain your privacy and integrity when using the Internet.  These are by no means comprehensive, but they can be quite useful and give you some semblance of peace when browsing.

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1. Use StartPage.com for all your searches. Known as “the world’s most private search engine”, StartPage will allow you to search anonymously and securely through Google.  It is probably the only search engine that does not collect or share any personal information about you.  You can even access pages through a proxy quickly and easily.  StartPage functionality can be easily added to your browser for all searches made through the address bar.  If you value your privacy, this is really a no-brainer.

If you use Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc then everything you search is logged to your IP address and is used to build a comprehensive profile about all your online activity.  This means that the government literally has the ability to know everything you’ve been interested in, how you type (thus, how you think), and much more.  Protect your searches!

2. Consider using an Anonymizer such as Tor to protect your identity. Tor prevents anyone from learning your location, browsing habits, and is an extremely effective tool against network surveillance and traffic analysis.  Tor is essentially a network of virtual tunnels run by volunteers that allows your real IP address to remain hidden and undetectable when browsing the Internet.  It is used by whistleblowers, hackers, and all those who value anonymity.  You can also use it to access sites that your ISP has blocked or banned.  Keep in mind, if you use Tor to access personally-identifying sites like Facebook then you pretty much lose your ability to remain anonymous.   Learn more about this powerful software and please use it responsibly! To get started quickly, please download the Tor Browser Bundle. Using this software wisely and effectively will likely require changing your browsing habits, so be aware of this.

3. Consider using a private and secure social network like Pidder.  This is a private social network that uses encrypted communication and offers the ability to remain anonymous.  If you are truly looking for ways to stay in touch with close ones in a uncompromised manner, this could be the site for you.  While it will not have the userbase of Facebook, this is still an excellent alternative for secure social networking.

4. Use a firewall and a secure wireless connection.  Protecting your inbound and outbound network traffic is essential.  There are many free software options available for this.  I cannot guarantee the integrity of these programs, but I personally recommend Little Snitch for Mac users.  It appears that Outpost may be a good alternative for Windows.  The key is to be able to see what services/sites are trying to send/receive data over your connection.  The more stringent your firewall rules are, the better.  Keep your computer clean by using some kind of anti-spam/spyware software and minimize your use of highly sketchy sites.

5. Delete your cookies regularly and log out of Facebook when you are not actively using it.  Almost everytime you visit a site, you download a cookie from that site, which is often used to track and collect data about you, the sites you visit, etc.  Therefore, deleting cookies and temporary internet files from your browser frequently is necessary.  I recommend CCleaner as an effective way to do this.  Most people leave a Facebook tab open and continue browsing, not realizing that every page that has a “Like” button actively logs and tracks their online activity.  Facebook collects all your browsing data and then sells it to third parties, including passing it onto intelligence agencies.  Therefore, when you are not actively using Facebook, be sure to log out!  Why should they know everything you’re up to online?

CORRECTION: It has now been confirmed that Facebook tracks your online activity even while you are logged out.  Thus, I highly recommend you install the browser plug-in called DoNotTrackMe.  The installation takes seconds and you don’t have to do anything once you’ve added it to your browser.  This extremely handy program will show you how many tracking attempts it has blocked in a small counter near your address bar.  Because all the trackers are rejected (even those other than Facebook), sites load up to 4x faster than usual!  A must-have for all privacy advocates if you don’t want your activity tracked!

6. Cover up or disconnect your webcam when you are not using it.  Did you know that your webcam can be secretly activated without you being aware of it?  Hackers and intelligence agencies have the ability to do this, so effective countermeasures must be taken here.  This can be done WITHOUT the indicator light coming on, so you won’t even know that you are being watched or recorded.  This is why I recommend taping over or covering up your webcam when you’re not using it.  Why take the risk?  Do you really want the government to have the ability to spy on you while you are in your bedroom?  The same thing can be done on cellphone cameras/microphones, so be aware of that too.  The only way your phone cannot be used to track/record you is if the battery is taken out, which is another reason why many new smartphones come with non-removable batteries these days.

7. Learn to use secure email services like HushMail or encrypted email.  Communicating using email is vital and part of our everyday lives.  If we use services like Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo, those services are not secure and are compromised.  Therefore, switching over to a secure service such as Hushmail can be valuable.  Or learn how to use Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), which is a way to send encrypted email and files that only a trusted third party can open and view. Essentially, PGP uses public-private key cryptography, where you will give out your public key to trusted recipients. Messages can only be decrypted by using your special private key file (that you keep safe) and the sender’s public key.  You can even encrypt files so that only a specific person can open them.  Learning to use PGP requires some technical knowledge but can be very useful for those who want to communicate securely and is well worth learning, in my opinion.  Please see this tutorial or this video to get started. There are some excellent YouTube videos that can really help out with this.

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Be smart about how you communicate online.  If you take no precautionary measures, then you should assume that your communications are being recorded and monitored at all times.  Do not discuss illegal or secret activities on Facebook or through Skype or Gmail.  Ultimately, we should be greatly decreasing our use of these compromised services altogether!  Be aware of what you type and consider their ramifications if ever made public.  We must exercise great discretion and discernment when it comes to our online activities now.  The methods listed above are by no means comprehensive and are just a small way to boost your privacy.  If you have other privacy tips, please mention them here in the comments for all to see and benefit from.  In the end, it is all up to the user to do their part in maintaining their online integrity.  Safe browsing my friends!

UPDATE: I was recently forwarded this brilliant link called PRISM-BREAK.  Please visit this link which shows you a listed of alternative services to use in virtually every aspect of digital communication.  Highly recommended.

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  1. mergon

    picture this ,a total recall system in your car that transmits everything ,well the EU C.A.N. emission system can do just that ,rowed in as a system that is not hard wired [ all of the sensors send their signals via an RF signal ]
    for what ever reason transmits a signal a distance of appx 50 ft , apart from diagnostics down to the enth degree the system can transmit engine number,number plates, tax ,insurance ,mot status,and diver licence status and or criminal record.
    then we have any phone ,computer use and of course gps , signals can be transmited to the new digital roadside systems , and then relayed to police vehicles if anything is auto flaged up , we already have mobile phone scanners in digital litter bins to track phones.

    The plus side is they dont need so many police officers or the police clones or traffic wardens , ,as is they already have CAMERA CARS cruising around the roads with a auto issue computer system.

    The next upgrade will be the domestic drones that will be flying up and down the motorways and roads scanning the output signals from the roadside collectors and then passing the information on to the mainframe .

    pick an item in a store with an RF tag and then walk through the detectors ,it sounds an alarm ,that RF tag has no batteries ,but an RF unit in a car does.

    Certain vehicle alarm systems are accessed remotely where the engine can turned of doors can be locked and other systems can be activated .

    The back up system is the camera with a number plate recognition system ,and in Dorset [UK] there been a sharp rise in number cameras appearing on the roads !

  2. mergon

    They a million ways to get to your stuff ,this one is painful but slows things down go into settings and deny any any permissions at all ,when you onto a site it will be pretty bare they will say you have to enable cookies well if the site wont work with out them you can allow only that site then we have the java script this the one that allows all of those nasty pop up ads and the like then we pics so we can see all of the pics they are paid to show us
    I dont give any more permissions than i have to ,just give the basic permissions for the page to run ,

    Clear your history ! = from the drop down menu = FROM THE BEGINING OF TIME , even that does not always work ,i have found that it does not clear form filling history ,emails and the like ,this machine does not run any security at all it certainly does not run Symantic/Norton try to delete these off your machine and its a life times work ,you cant get rid,,i dont do online banking or store credit card numbers or do transactions .

    It is however frustrating to use sometimes, and there are certain pass words iv been denied like CC1CC1 ,some thing to do with the canary wharf boys down in Vauxhall ,and you can come unstuck i was commenting on on news paper website for some time with no probs at all until i explained how to hack a CAN emission system on a Mercedes Benz to cause the braking system to operate on one side of the car only at speed ,i did not give exact detail , i also said that the prosecution never asked for the cars computer to study the fault log ,i also said that after the crash the computer would need to be replaced with an identical one ,then i found that i could not log in i did the usual change of pass word then emailed them in the end i could sign in but could not comment
    so that was the end of that ,i also had probs with a couple of other news paper sites but thats life !

  3. Ben of the Plains

    Did you mean other than that they were hacked and everyone’s IP addresses were exposed?

    • Eliot Estep

      Hey Ben, the companies mentioned were not hacked in that way. They have been knowingly leaking our sensitive data to intelligence agencies like the NSA for some years now. They publicly deny this vehemently, and it is likely that only a few within the organizations themselves know the real scope of the leaks, but nonetheless it is happening. Basically, all the world’s most popular online services are compromised and can be used against you should the “authorities” ever take a specific interest in you. Not a pleasant reality but something worth acknowledging and taking precautionary measures if necessary.

  4. Pingback: No Picture? Then It Never Happened. | Digitizing My Worldview

  5. Pingback: 7 Powerful Ways to Maintain Your Privacy and Integrity Online | Research Material

  6. Marcus R

    This article should be updated to warn people about Tor, not suggesting it. Yikes.

    • Pawel

      Why do say that? What is wrong with using Tor?

    • Eliot Estep

      Tor has been a hotspot for FBI and NSA activity for years, you are right. And without knowledge of the NSA’s abilities and means, we do not know their full capabilities to influence or compromise Tor. I have read that the NSA may be able to position themselves between major tier-1 ISPs and other major data pipelines so that traffic can still be intercepted along the way. However, tracing it back to its original source is still a challenge. I would still say that using Tor correctly still offers you major benefits to staying anonymous if you use it properly. If you have some good articles or sources that point out the vulnerabilities of Tor, please feel free to post them here.

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