By the nature of your alliance with Justice Democrats, you understand the need for a responsible democratic government which respects human rights and the will of the people. This also puts you at odds with the American Congress which voted against internet privacy. Once Trump signs the bill, your internet service providers can and likely will sell everything you do online to whoever will give them the most money. This isn’t just theory, this has happened before with some companies even charging up to $29 a month for a “service” to not leak your data.
This is a big violation not just to political activists, people who don’t want their boss to view their browsing history, and people who don’t want their porn and financial records available to anyone, but also for safety as in many cases your physical location can be determined. Think about that: evildoers could purchase the ability to track your child’s physical location 24×7.
I’m reaching out to some experts who can tell Justice Democrats some ways to stay safe during this Orwellian nightmare, but until then, here are some things to consider:
First: no matter what browser you’re using, install HTTPS Everywhere. This forces your browser to only use more secure webpages. It will prevent you from going to several sites, but on those sites everything you do is visible to people who know how to look and you don’t want that. When using HTTPS websites your ISP will still be able to collect and sell metadata but it’s greatly reduced. For example, they’ll see that while you were in your apartment at 6:45 pm you visited your bank’s website, but they won’t be able to see your password or know how much money is in your account.
Second: Switch up your habits. When you’re being followed, the best thing to do is to be unpredictable:
- Keep your devices in airplane mode when you’re not using them
- Sign out of Google
- Turn off location tracking
- Have several email addresses: a private one for secure communications with your family and friends, a burner email you never open that you give to suspicious websites and situations where you expect to be tracked, and a professional work-email that you can use in professional situations.
- Don’t use these emails in the same location otherwise it’ll give it away that you have them. For example, consider having a separate device without location tracking enabled which you only send personal emails from and you do that from the local library.
Third: Consider using Opera as your browser. It has a built in virtual private network and ad blocking which will help with some privacy. Without getting too technical, a VPN basically makes it look like your computer is in a different location than it is by bouncing the signal around the world. (One side benefit of this is often you can watch region-locked videos like BBC!) Opera is free and has a built-in VPN, so until we figure out something better, you might as well get that and activate it. It is, however, owned by a company in China, and it’s quite possible that they can track and sell your data as well though, so while we’re still not out of the woods, it’s probably better than nothing.
Fourth: Pay for a VPN. Yes, we’re at that point where we have to pay to not be stalked. Reminds one of gangsters, no? Anyway, there are many VPNs out there and they offer various services to anatomize your data. Keep in mind subscribing to one puts you on an NSA list, and not subscribing to one puts your data in the public domain. Rock and hard place, but I think it’s better to err on the side of security, let’s fill their list with so many innocent people it’s worthless. The other big caveat is that we can’t trust VPNs any more than ISPs and they can also sell your data, so do your homework to find one that reputable people find trustworthy and cross your fingers.
Fifth: Use TOR. TOR is an program designed by the military to hide your browsing. It’s not perfect, but in most cases it’ll be secure enough for you provided you follow the rules. Look up ways to stay anonymous within TOR, and recognize that it is going to affect how you browse and some things you might normally do like downloading torrents or social networking might not be possible.
Sixth: Encryption. In addition to HTTPS there are various programs out there to encrypt your data. Look up PGP encryption as it’s known to be one of the most secure. I’ll admit that I don’t know much about this, but go to BoingBoing.net and check out some articles on it by Cory Doctorow and he explains it in some of his books (like Little Brother and Homeland) which you can find for free online. Some apps have this built in, I think Signal is a messaging app which does. While this might not necessarily keep you safe from Big Brother, it should be good to keep your texts free from the eyes of your boss or whoever else your ISP has sold your data to.
Seventh: If you feel like you’re not just being paranoid but being watched, check out higher security software. There’s a Linux program called Tails, for example, which if used properly is highly effective in hiding your browsing and is developed for use by political activists in the developing world.
Eighth: Whatever steps for yourself, take the same for your less-computer savy parents, grandparents and friends. And remember anonymity requires both sides to be secure, it doesn’t matter how safe your side is if your friends’ information is being accessed.
For further information, check out this article and also read through Cory Doctorow’s articles on the subject on BoingBoing.net. This is a developing situation, a tragic, but not an unexpected one. And even if Trump does refuse to sign the bill, these steps will still set up road blocks in the way of government surveillance.