A couple months ago, Pew Research published an article discussing views of online privacy. They found that over half of Americans have become very concerned about protecting their online identities since Edward Snowden revealed the NSA’s data monitoring.
“52% described themselves as “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about government surveillance of Americans’ data and electronic communications, compared with 46% who described themselves as “not very concerned” or “not at all concerned” about the surveillance.”
Why Are People Becoming More Concerned About Online Privacy?
A variety of factors have contributed to these concerns.
The NSA Monitoring
In 2013, Snowden released numerous reports showing that the NSA has been spying on citizens and world leaders across the globe. Informal audits of the NSA show that some NSA contractors have abused their powers by looking at private images and messages that have no relevance to national security, such as explicit images women have shared with their significant others.
The Election of Donald Trump
More recent publications reveal people are even more concerned since the surprising election of Donald Trump. April Glazer recently wrote the post “Trump will be a disaster for online privacy, Here’s how to protect yours before it’s too late.”
Christopher Heine wrote the piece “After Trump’s Win, Security Groups and Marketers Are Anxious About Digital Privacy Some already are taking a stand”.
Glazer writes – “Donald Trump doesn’t like encryption. He threatened to call for a boycott of Apple products because they wouldn’t undermine the encryption on the iPhone… He is also in favor of NSA mass surveillance. And on the topic of hacking his enemies, Trump said, ‘I wish I had that power. Man, that would be power’”
Doxing is the exposure of private information about somebody’s offline identity. Many journalists, activists and even random Internet users have been “doxed” in recent years. Some have been very serious, such as Site Intel Group, Rabitat al-Ansar, a pro-ISIS media group, which released the names and addresses of over 400 New Jersey citizens last year.
Protecting Yourself from Ever-growing Online Privacy Threats
Protecting your online privacy is more important than ever. Here are five things you can do to keep yourself safe and anonymous online.
Be Careful With Virtual Breadcrumbs
Many people believe that their privacy is only vulnerable to threats from hackers. Unfortunately, people can often identity them by looking at facts they posted about themselves online (often referred to as “virtual breadcrumbs”).
You need to be very careful about sharing information online, even if you are using anonymous sites like Reddit. Try to avoid mentioning where you attended school, your occupation or the area you live. If you do need to include this information in a post, it’s a good idea to either:
- Post contradictory information in a future post to throw off a potential doxer.
- Create a “throwaway account” solely for sharing this information, so people won’t be able to tie it with anything else you posted.
You never know how small pieces of information can haunt you later.
Tor is a free software that hides your real location. Many people used to believe that people only used Tor to traffic drugs on Silk Road or do other shady things. However, since the NSA scandal erupted, more people use it to protect their online privacy.
Use a VPN
Tor is a great tool for protecting your identity, but many sites block Tor nodes, because it is often used by spammers or people hosting DDOS attacks. You may want to use a VPN instead, because you shouldn’t have trouble accessing most of your favorite sites. In fact, you can even use a VPN to access sites that may be blocked while you are traveling.
Avoid Popular Consumer Services Such as Google
According to an article from Inc.com, this is the number one tip from Edward Snowden. Sites like Google, Facebook and Dropbox are frequently monitored by the NSA, hackers and other people that threaten your online security.
Avoid Unnecessary Browser Plug-ins
There are a number of great browser plug-ins, which can make your web experience more seamless and convenient. Unfortunately, many of these tools also collect all kinds of information about you. You have no idea how it will be used (and possibly never will).
The truth is that most of these plug-ins really aren’t all that necessary. You should think twice before installing them. If you do need them, then you may want to have a separate browser without them. For example, you can use Google Chrome with all of your browser plug-ins for research, while using Firefox to post on Facebook, Reddit and forums where you are concerned about your privacy.
That’s it these were the 5 quick and effective hacks with which you can protect your online privacy.
If you have any queries feel free to ask it in the comment section below.