After watching “Terms and Conditions May Apply” today it is hard not to feel pessimistic about personal privacy. But as the documentary suggests technology of surveillance usually follows technology for anonymity. You are not helpless against the continuous corporation and government surveillance, since there are countless methods and tools that you can use, depending to your expected level of privacy. We wanted to gather some of these tools and methods on a simple guide to get you started on claiming your privacy.
Browsers and Browser Add-ons
With the constant shift on web technology our computer usage shifts more and more towards browsers which means more and more personal data is flowing through them. And most of this data is collected by the developer of that browser if your choice is proprietary browsers. For example, with the default settings on, using Google Chrome means your web history is reported back to Google WITH your name attached.
An alternative is Firefox, which is an open source project from Mozilla Foundation. It is as robust as its competitors and a great choice. If you are too used to using Google Chrome you could try another open source project Chromium which is the actual core of Google Chrome but with proprietary parts stripped out and with the option of choosing to share your data with Google or not.
After choosing a browser, it comes to preventing websites trying to track your movements. This can be partly achieved through the usage of some browser apps. For example, you can activate the “Do Not Track” option on your browser that prevents sites that you do NOT visit but are affiliated with the ones you do, like advertisement networks. Or use NoScript, a browser add-on that prevents sites from running scripts that could compromise your privacy and lets you whitelist trusted sites.
Alternatives to Everyday Services
We navigate trough the web using search engines and they usually collect, analyze and classify your searches to make profit off of you by exposing you to ads and sometimes even selling your personal data. A very peaceful and powerful alternative to your best know search engine is DuckDuckGo. It is really good in terms of search results, user experience and instant answers it provides to your queries. Another similar alternative with the same purpose, would be StartPage. It provides you the same results as a Google search, but secures your anonymity.
Another service that we use daily and frequently are emails. Your free emails that are registered under big corporations like Google and Yahoo are constantly monitored for keywords for creating profiles of you. As an alternative to these, you could set up your own email server, use a more transparent and user friendly email provider like ProtonMail, or use an encryption standard like PGP. A quick solution might be using Germany based GMX, where your personal data is protected by German laws.
Finally for instant messaging instead of Facebook newly acquired child WhatsApp you can use Telegram, an open source IM client with encrypted chatting features and a slick design.
It can not be emphasized enough that you are not secure or private while using Microsoft Windows and you should consider “Throwing Windows out of your computer or throwing your computer out of the window.” As alternatives you could use one of the many GNU/Linux distributions or a BSD flavour. Installing and using either of them is fairly easy and very well documented. Alternatively but not preferably you could look into getting a Mac (which comes with Mac OSX, a BSD flavour) device which are much less open than other options but with slightly better standards about your privacy and security compared to Windows.
Privacy On the Go
If you own an Android Smart phone, chances are you are being monitored by multiple third parties at once. It is a privacy nightmare when you think of things like always on voice recording and location history essentially giving away your whole life to companies to be recorded. But if you have a supported device, folks at CyanogenMod provides you with a safe mobile environment with solid Android experience.
Tinfoil Hat Tier Tools
If you are looking for some more serious protection here are some tools:
TOR Browser Bundle: A browser bundle that hides your traffic through a world wide link of proxy servers and some more tools. Not for daily use.
Tails GNU/Linux live CD: An operating system that is used directly from a removable media source like a DVD or a usb stick. Can be used on any computer. Ensures your anonymity with various tools and leaves no traces behind