You are being watched. All of us are. Every second, the government is collecting data on internet usage, communication, bank account activity, GPS location data, and travel ticket purchases. Your license plate is recorded every time you drive past a traffic camera. Your phone usage metadata is stored every time you text your friend or call your parents. As technology continues to improve and advance, so do the techniques used to collect your data with advances being made in facial and voice recognition data processing, backdoor tracking, and legal footholds.
For most libertarians, this is old news. Since the National Security Agency global surveillance disclosures were brought to light with the help of former government contractor Edward Snowden in June 2013, the public has become firmly aware of the state’s transgressions against privacy.
In all the backlash that has ensued, a better sense of private communication literacy is still lacking. Not many people are tech-savvy, and entering the world of coding and network structure can be intimidating. Luckily, there are great, user-friendly programs available.
The Tor Project began in 2002, launched by computer scientists using an onion-layer protocol. The browser uses a technique that funnels information through a virtual circuit to leave a nigh-untraceable path from sender to destination. It uses a smooth, Chrome-esque interface which allows straightforward, simple access. Whether you’re looking for late night web-browsing, added protection from identity theft, or censorship-resistant publishing – a journalism MUST, Tor is a great first-step program.
- Gnu Privacy Guard (GPG)
GPG, a secure e-mailing program, is the second generation in Symantec’s cryptographic communications suites. It was developed by Werner Koch and launched in 2002. The software has been lauded for its consistent security. While not always user-friendly – the interface is reminiscent of an artifact from a computer stone age, requiring active key exchange – it’s the best program available for information exchange. It’s rumored that even Edward Snowden used it while leaking documents.
The first secure service in a line of cloud-based storage programs and websites, SpiderOak cannot and will not furnish any client document records to government officials upon request because, unlike like similar services (Dropbox, iCloud, etc.), the users hold the encryption key for access – not the program. What’s more, the interface is easily navigable, comparable to its program peers.
- Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield allows users to connect to virtual private networks (VPN) to ensure secure internet connections in areas that aren’t very secure. First released in 2005 by AnchorFree, the program has undergone groundbreaking updates and received favorable reviews from much of the Cryptoanarchy community. The program was even used during the Arab Spring by protestors in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya who needed to bypass government censorship of the internet.
- Silent Circle
Launched by a Swiss company of the same name in 2012, Silent Circle is a secure communications program for your phones. It’s basically an encrypted calling and texting service which allows users to communicate in a surveillance-proof setting. Unlike the other programs listed here, Silent Circle isn’t free, but for a low cost, it renders wiretapping and call metadata inaccessible to surveillance agencies.
* Editor: the text above has been reviewed for readability, but not content. The opinion(s) reflected therein are those of the author, and not of the BeingLibertarian.com website or Being Libertarian LLC.
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