By now, you’ve probably heard all about the controversy regarding the NSA, Verizon Wireless and their combined efforts to pump the American public for private information. Pundits are viewing it as a major security breach orchestrated by the very entities who say they want to keep us protected. Apparently they’re willing to do so by any means necessary, even if it comes at the cost of our privacy. If you’ve been partying under a rock or are unaware for whatever reason, here’s the lowdown:
Forbes is one of several outlets to report on the top secret order UK newspaper the Guardian recently obtained and published. What was in it? A request from the FBI on behalf of the NSA for Verizon to hand over a huge batch of metadata to phone records over a three-month period. These records don’t belong to foreigners or even citizens suspected of terrorism, but everyday Americans like you and I. But it gets more unsettling.
Former NSA employees turned whistleblowers claim the government collects records on an estimated three billion phone calls per day. These former workers said this stuff has been going on for quite a while with Verizon, as well as all other major phone companies in the United States. As you can imagine, this news has the entire country on edge, driving many people to look at the Obama Administration and the government through highly scrupulous eyes.
Keeping Big Brother Out
The news about the NSA’s sneaky data mining activities has led to speculation that Big Brother is virtually tracking our every electronic movement — from phone calls to web searches to the shenanigans we make public on social media sites everyday. Is there a way to keep your communications and data private? I did some digging around, and here are some tips I’ve found based on that research:
Secure Your Phone Calls
There is a growing market of tools specifically designed to protect your phone calls through encryption. One such tool is an app by the name of RedPhone Secure Calls. This particular app provides end-to-end encryption aimed to create a level of security that ensures no one can listen in on your conversations. While your calls are encrypted, the calling process and your phone itself functions as normal, so you don’t have to do too much altering. Are these types of applications effective enough to stop a determined snoop of a Big Brother? That remains to be seen.
Browse the Web with HTTPS
HTTP Secure or HTTPS, is a feature designed to add a layer of protection to the insecure Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that allows us to communicate with websites. While the protocol protects against exploits such as the dreaded man-in-the-middle attack, it also combats eavesdropping by encrypting client-server communications. Many browsers have integrated HTTPS functionality, including FireFox and Google’s Chrome.
Believe in the Mighty Tor!
Tor is a network that uses thousands of relays to keep the user’s identity and location hidden from traffic analysis, network surveillance and other methods used to track internet activity. This tool can be useful in keeping government snoops out of your business. Coupled with an alternate identity that reveals you as anyone other than yourself, I can attest that Tor has proven to be fairly reliable — so far.
Are We Doomed to Be Watched?
The one consistent thing I found in hunting down all these protective measures is that there is no surefire way to keep our identity or activity protected from the government. These methods may slow them down a bit, but if they really want to know something about you, I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t appear to be anything you can do to stop them.
So where do we go from here? Stop using our phones and the internet altogether? Move to Canada and learn to speak Canadian? Or just sit back, say our prayers and hope the government finds us too insignificant to even bother with? I have no freaking clue, but hopefully there’s a way to put an end to the madness.