Big brother is watching
By now you’ve heard of Edward Snowden’s leaking of the U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance program wherein the government was allegedly collecting data on citizens without a warrant (aka, they are storing your emails). The news has spawned humorous responses, but the main side effect has been a growing awareness of what tech circles have long suspected – Big Brother is watching. And listening. And storing. And potentially reading. While many are disturbed by their data being available to the federal government, local and state governments are responding by reforming their own policies, like Texas which now has the strongest email privacy laws in America (although federal investigations and agencies can still poke around).
As awareness is heightened, people are considering two things – how did we get here and where do we go from here? Perhaps the best way to summarize how we got here is to point to Facebook’s repeated disregard for users’ privacy and Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s foreshadowing statement, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Schmidt’s statement was two years into the surveillance program, mind you.
So where do we go from here?
We looked at various ways to protect yourself from being monitored online by the government. What apps don’t store data in the cloud? What search engines give you complete anonymity? People are no longer seeking anonymity because they don’t want Schmidt to know they watch porn, rather they don’t care for Big Brother to see activities out of context and make a federal case out of it. Literally.
We looked high and lo and came up with search engines like Duck Duck Go that keep your information safe, but it turns out that this and similar search engines simply keep your information private from third parties like marketers, not necessarily the government. Even when a company seeks to offer complete privacy from everyone, including the NSA, tech experts like Amy Vernon, GM and SocialMarketing for Internet Media Labs point out that these companies are still at the mercy of their server provider.
So how does one avoid being monitored online by the government so that your emails are not read? Well first of all, you just read this story, so your IP address (and obviously mine) is now probably in like some secret bunker database somewhere, right? But other than that, what apps can you use and what search engines or email providers can you use to avoid being monitored whether you’re behaving badly or innocently online? Here is the full list of services that are NSA-proof.