One of the big stories of the summer has been about Eric Snowden and his disclosure of the NSA’s surveillance program. This is a very important issue for all of us, as it concerns our rights and freedoms, particularly in regard to privacy. It is also a very complicated issue, one that pits those rights against what it takes to protect us from our adversaries. I’ll periodically be posting thoughts on this tension. I’ll also do my best to describe some of the technical issues involved, because understanding how some of these cyber technologies work can help one appreciate why the tensions exist in the first place.
Today, however, I simply want to raise two points.
First, it is completely reasonable to be innocent of wrongdoing and yet be wary and fearful of being watched online. It doesn’t matter whether the watcher is a government or some other kind of entity. After all, if you discover that a neighbor is snooping in your window, you close your drapes, regardless of what you happen to be doing. I think it’s fair to assume that the overwhelming majority of people who are raising their voices in protest of the NSA’s surveillance program are doing so simply because they want to draw the drapes.
So, what can you do if you are a law-abiding citizen who doesn’t like the idea of being watched online? That’s the second purpose of this post. A student recommended to me a rather excellent online resource that provides links to a litany of free tools that help you remain mostly anonymous online. The website is https://prism-break.org/. As its headline says, it aims to help you “opt out of PRISM, the NSA’s global data surveillance program.” It provides numerous links to tools that help you anonymize your web searches and downloads, encrypt your communications, and break your reliance on big corporate services. I have tried only a few of these tools, but I’ve heard of most of them. I had never seen all of them listed in one place until now.
If you are concerned about the increased threat to your online privacy (or at least the perception that we are all now being more closely monitored), it might be worth experimenting with some of these tools to see whether they meet your online needs.