How to Protect Yourself from Spying

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We value our privacy.

No wonder we’re nervous. The National Security Agency, in blithe disregard of our constitutional right against unwarranted search and seizure, has been indiscriminately scooping up data (“meta” data) about our communications (among other covert acts that have compromised the security of our transactions).

However the controversies triggered by the scandals play out, it’s clearer than ever that you can’t trust the government to respect your right to privacy. Your line of first defense has to be you.

Even before the NSA scandal broke, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was on the case, explaining how to reduce your risk when saving data to your computer, sending the data elsewhere, and entrusting it to third parties. Their Surveillance Self-Defense site spells out what the government can legally do to spy on you and what you can legally do to protect yourself. The discussion includes nitty-gritty stuff like advice on the proper use of passwords and encryption, protecting yourself against malware, and lowering the risk of eavesdropping on confidential conversations.

That’s right, SSD talks about “what the government can legally do” to breach your data or listen in on your life, not so much about what it can do illegally. A banner atop the home page notes that the site “has not yet been updated to reflect the 2013 revelations about the NSA. . . .”

Updates are coming. Meanwhile, we can fill in some of the blanks ourselves. . . .

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Illustration by ocularinvasion used under a Creative Commons license.

3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jan
    9
    11:43
    AM
    Drik

    Phone location can be tracked as long as there is a battery in it. The phone can also be turned on to collect video and audio, without having to be in the “on” mode. Besides removing the battery, an easier alternative to being tracked is the use of a Faraday cage. Placing the phone inside of any conductive (ie magnetic) container blocks any signals in or out.

    If you aren’t doing anything “wrong”, then you don’t “need” rights.

  2. Jan
    9
    5:27
    PM
    MingoV

    There is a difference between what the government is getting away with now versus what is legal. The NSA’s mission is to use technological methods to spy on foreign terrorists and agents. (The CIA handles human spying on foreigners.) The NSA has no authority to spy on Americans except those who are communicating with suspected foreign spies and agents. Thus, 99.9% of NSA spying in the USA is illegal.

    There is some legal spying on everyone because communications companies and internet service providers voluntarily give government spies access to data such as call information (date & time, number called, length of call, general location of callers using cell phones, etc.) It the communication companies care about their customers privacy, they can just say no. But, sucking up to the government is more beneficial.

  3. Jan
    10
    12:17
    PM
    Drik

    Over 11,000 Americans have been illegally spied on, per the NSA.

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