Pretty Good Privacy

By Ev Bogue - October 14th 2013

Since everyone knows the United States is involved in an ongoing war on it's citizen's privacy, privacy has become a hot topic for a growing number of American computer users. Over of the past few months, I've watched as the public Internet has grown much 'darker' as informed people begin changing their habits.

However, many of the people I've spoken with have little to no experience reclaiming their privacy. So, I'm seeing a lot of very newb mistakes. In an effort to correct these mistakes, I've written this piece to help educate yourself around using the Internet with pretty good privacy.

Let's start with the obvious. If you use Fuckbook, you're an idiot. Not only do you have to send in a scan of your government ID if you use this service, you also can be censored at a whim, and all of your data is funneled direct to NSA HQ. You're an idiot if you are still using this service. And also, a horrible person for continuing to be complicit in crimes against the Internet in this way. Delete your account now, do not read further. If you do not delete your Fuckbook right now, know I consider you a failure at all life, not just your Internet privacy.

Still haven't deleted your account? Get the off my site.

If you want privacy, do NOT think you can get at ANY centralized service provider. Do NOT think you can get it on a Chromebook. Do NOT think you can get it using a Gmail account. You cannot.

Alright then, let's continue with this lesson.

  1. Incognito mode is NOT privacy. This function of a web browser is designed for your boyfriend to hide his porn reading habits from you and his mom. It does not do anything to disguise your digital identity on the Internet. It only stops saving stuff to your computer so you don't get caught red handed with over-18 boobies.
  2. Tor is a piece of software used to bounce your clearnet traffic around the world a few times, and then give you an exit. From there, you can browse from the safety and comfort of knowing you appear to be browsing from Berlin or some other privacy-centric city where lots of people run Tor exit nodes. Tor is a browser-bundle you download from the Tor website. Do your homework, while Tor is good for browsing in a private way, it might not be good other things. For example, using Tor Hidden services to be an idiot doing illegal things. See recent news about Silk Road.
  3. PGP is impossible for most people to use. I can barely figure it out, and I work with this stuff all of the time. Don't expect to be able to email your grandmother using PGP, it's just too hard to set up. To offer real privacy over the Internet, we might need to invent a new way of communicating.
  4. Use Linux. If you're using a closed-source operating system, there's a good chance it's running spyware. Don't look the fool by taping over your webcam, instead make the switch to a computer that won't spy on you.
  5. Don't use Skype. Duh.
  6. In the meantime, if you want to do something REALLY PRIVATE, you need to do what Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and Laura Poitras did when they met up in Hong Kong. They got together in person, and exchanged leaked information. Then, they distributed it to the USB sticks and air-gapped computers. Then they left the country as fast as they could before the NSA got to them. Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt are also well known to have taken 'long walks in the park' when they wanted to discuss private matters and hash out secret agreements.

If you want pretty good privacy, do what the kids did in The Wire. Don't talk on the phones or in cars. Take walks.

In the meantime, there are a lot of people working on better solutions than these. If you want to get involved, learn more about how computers work.

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