We all know by now that the FBI, the National Security Agency and British intelligence are tapping into the data silos of nine leading U.S. internet companies which include: Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Pal Talk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple.
Exactly twelve years ago, Brad Templeton from the Electronic Frontier Foundation rather prophetically pointed to the sort of privacy scandal (like the one involving the NSA, PRISM and Verizon) that we read in the headlines daily. In 2001, Templeton wrote:
” The real danger comes because when we feel we are under surveillance by the government, by strangers, by our neighbors, or by faceless databases we feel less free.”
According to the EFF, despite President Obama’s recent claim that the government is only sifting through so-called metadata, this data can still reveal a boatload about your movements, your interests and your problems.
Its encouraging and noteworthy that Twitter has been singled out as a positive “exemplar of privacy protection” according to an article in the Washington Post.
So here are 3 simple things you can do to help keep your personal online habits (part of what I refer to in my book as your “Habit Habitat”), as private as possible.
1. Learn to delete flash cookies. Even though you delete your cookies and history, there are still crumbs and traces of your online activity stored on all your computers at home and at work. By deleting flash cookies, you have the ability to sweep up some of the crumbs which less effective methods usuallly leave behind. Even if you’re not too tech oriented, this article from the website How To Geek may be helpful.
2. Learn to recognize and ignore spam bait. Never reply to spammers for any reason. This includes clicking the opt-out or unsubscribe options available on the spammer’s email page. Responding only confirms that you are a real human target and your email address will soon begin to appear on other spam lists as a result. The danger here is that “keyloggers” can easily and indetectably be installed via email, which quietly sit in the background and allow the baddies to see EVERYTHING you type into your computer! PC Magazine offers excellent reviews of products designed to keep spammers and their spying friends at bay.
3. Learn to browse the Web anonymously. In an eye-opening and thought-provoking article, Techlicious writer Christina DesMarais, provides lots of privacy insight for both PC and Mac users. In theory, Internet anonymity prevents outsiders from tracking both your whereabouts and your activity. Think “cloak of invisibility”.
As it should be, none of these protection strategies will stop a legitimate court order. So baddies, beware.
Dale Penn is a professional speaker and privacy / identity expert. He is the author of the award-winning book, Identity Theft Secrets: Exposing The Tricks Of The Trade. Follow him on Twitter @dalepenn