There are ways to fight the police-state, on your own, without joining any group or party and giving up your independence. Protecting your privacy on the Internet is one of them.
Just don’t forget that a lot of privacy sites are really government projects. The idea is to steer you to privacy software put out by the government’s buddies. It’s the oldest trick in the book.
But given that, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. Here are ten of them.
1. Get your name and address off of mailing lists, subscriber lists, forms, directories, and data centers. You may need to keep doing that every year, as long as you have a credit card with your home address on it.
2. Use Google only if you need to. Otherwise, use private/anonymous search engines. There are a few. I won’t name them, because when people start selecting one or other engine, then the powers-that-be start paying more attention and screw things up for them.
3. Use a virtual private network, but use it with caution. There’s a Catch-22 here. The free ones probably make money by selling your information… or worse. The ones that aren’t free need you to sign up on the net with an account and a credit card. Which means another vulnerability. Passwords can be hacked and licenses can be stolen. Plus, VPN’s with servers and HQ’s in America, Britain, Europe and many other places, cannot protect your privacy if you get caught up with the police or lawyers, even tangentially. Your ISP and VPN provider will be forced to comply with subpoenas and laws that demand data-sharing.
Completely anonymous off-shore VPN’s on the other hand can arouse government suspicion, even if you’re as innocent as a baa lamb.
Also, what if someone hijacks your VPN to commit crimes? How would you prove it wasn’t you, if someone wanted to incriminate you?
I asked the FBI this recently, and they tell me that they can figure it out. But do you really want to be in a position where only the FBI can clear your name? And what if it’s the FBI that wants to get you in trouble? I mean, it’s not unheard of.
4. Limit what you do on the Internet. If you can’t stop using the net altogether (which is really the best option), try to curtail what you do. Limit what you buy on the net. Stop sending sensitive emails, even encrypted ones, over the net. If you have to sell on the Internet to make a living, stay on top of computer crime by following a good security forum. Wilders is one.
5. Share computers or use public computers. Lots of times, the easiest way to be private is to use a computer used by other people you can trust, so long as you don’t input sensitive information. That way what you do is mixed up with what lots of other people are doing and it’s harder to track.
6. Don’t tell anyone your privacy tricks. I used to suggest things on this blog before, like using Scroogle or Ixquick. I don’t any more. The more people start using one trick, the more the government…or the criminals on the net…starts focusing on that trick. I’m not about to research things so people can track and harass me using my own research against me.
Who would do such a scummy thing? Short answer – scum.
On the net, the scum rises to the top.
7. Don’t put your ideas out on the net, unless you’re prepared for everyone to take them without credit. While many people try to be ethical, a substantial number think that the ease of digital crime is a justification for it.
Keep your thoughts to yourself for other reasons, as well. Any opinion you voice publicly is going to be held against you.
Write what your conscience demands. Just be sure you can live with how people will use it, misuse it, and abuse it.
8. Avoid social media, unless you have to connect with someone for a reason. I deleted my Facebook account, my Digg account, Technorati, and a bunch of other things I don’t want to mention. I keep my blog up for several reasons, but from the viewpoint of privacy, it’s a terrible thing. I sometimes wish I had never begun it.
9. Keep a low profile. Even if you do have to write/blog, try to keep it under the radar. Blogging about politics is always going to get attention. You can’t avoid that. But you can always avoid confrontations. You can always make an effort to give both sides their due, You can filter comments, avoid posting on forums/sites you don’t know personally, and side-step flame-wars with all the cretins and sociopaths out there.
The net is a highway. You’re driving next to strangers. Honking your horn or waving a hand at them is OK. Getting into their cars and driving off to dinner with them is another.
10. Watch your IP (Internet Protocol). Your IP address is being harvested by someone all the time. Cookies collect it, forums and boards record it, email providers and search engines track it. You can disguise it or change it, but determined people can always get hold of an IP.
That means they can figure out where you are, physically. Which is pretty unnerving. I’ve had a few nasty experiences when enemies got hold of my IP.
So change your IP as much as you need to; change your computer and ISP provider every year, or even every six months. It’s not so hard to change a computer if you buy it refurbished or second-hand. A good Dell laptop can be had for about $120. You can always sell the old one and get back some of your money.
On the other hand, you might want to arrange for a few traps for any would-be spies. In that case, your approach might be a bit different…..Be creative.
As for ISP’s, there are always deals, if you look for them. Quote a price and ask your ISP if they will match it. In this economy, companies are willing to lower their rates to attract customers.