It doesn’t seem like something people should have to do, we live in America, after all, but recent news has suggested that the government is monitoring people online and when they use their phones. Because of this, many people, even those with nothing to hide, have begun to look for ways to keep their private use of online technology private.
One of the first and easiest things people can do is remove the batteries from their cell phone when not using it. This prevents them from being tracked. Just turning off the phone won’t do it-the tracking technology is still working. To prevent others from tracking you, either take the batteries out, or leave the phone at home. Another perhaps better strategy is to use a so-called prepaid “burner” cell phone. Such phones allow for calls to be made and received without either party signing up for a plan, thus, no one knows who is making (or receiving) a call, which means it can’t be traced-at least not directly. If you’re a criminal and the police are watching you, they can figure out which burner phone is being used by triangulating your position, which of course will allow them to listen in, if they have a warrant.
For those worried about their online history being tracked, whether it’s when using a smartphone, handheld device or computer, there are a couple of options. The first is to use an incognito window available with most browsers. Doing so prevents cookies from being deposited on the user’s harddrive and masks the user’s IP address. Unfortunately, an incognito window won’t prevent online surveillance if the government has already targeted a person-there is a way foolproof way to stop them however-by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)-these work in two ways: The first is where a user visits a VPN online then navigates the web through its client. The second is where a physical barrier is used for a network that doesn’t reveal any of its IP addresses.
There’s also something else you can do, though it’s not nearly as effective in the short term-visit the Surveillance Self-Defense (SSD) web site. The people that have set up the site have organized themselves to fight the legality of government online surveillance. They offer tips to technology users but more importantly, urge everyone to contact their representatives and ask them to negate laws that allow the government to collect user data without a warrant.
Another way users can protect themselves from government snooping is to not post private information on social network sites, or to at least post to them from a public computer, such as one at the local library. Users can also encrypt their data files and/or pictures if they store them on cloud sites-the government can’t open them without a password (though the courts have on more than one occasion forced a person to give up their password or face jail.)
In short, the onus of protecting their privacy online falls on the individual user. For those worried about having their privacy violated, there are measures that can be taken-all a user need do is educate themselves on the options available.