Safer on the move: digital privacy

By Ev Bogue - December 15th 2013

You are safer on the move.

Mobility equals freedom, and freedom in 2013 is in short supply. To get more freedom, you need to take action with your own keyboard.

This is the first in a series of three posts on how to move around the planet with ease. The first is about how to keep your location as secret as possible.

Privacy on the road

Does the government of the United States deserve to know where you are at all times? Are you just handing your location to them without a warrent every time you browse the Internet? Do you value privacy? It is, after all, a human need.

“But, I have nothing to hide, right?” you’re going to argue with me, as almost everyone does. Is privacy not your department?

Having privacy is not about having something to hide, it’s about your freedom to have privacy in your life.

The totalitarian government of the United States isn’t going to fire the 35,000 fuckwads who live at NSA HQ. The ball is in our court. Are we going to continue to reveal our every poop to the Internet, or are we going to start to cover our digital tracks a little better?

The goal of this article isn’t to get you to 100%. If you want any serious Internet privacy, you’re going to have to be pretty hardcore. More hardcore than me, because I don’t have perfect Internet privacy.

If you’re doing anything that might get you a one year asylum in Russia, please read more than just this article.

Here’s a list of strategies you can take that will bring you to the next level.

1. Don’t carry a phone

It’s well known that all smartphones double as NSA tracking devices. Fuck with the NSA, and save $1200-$2500 USD a year by selling your phone. If you can’t sell it, toss it to the bottom of the ocean. If you’re carrying a phone, evidence has proven that they are probably recording all of your conversations without your permission. If this isn’t enough, your iPhone is also tracking your movements. Turn this on its head, trash your phone now.

I’ve lived without a phone since I sold my iPhone in San Francisco’s Mission District at the beginning of 2012. They even gave me $365 for it!

But what about your social life? Look people, being on an iPhone at a party is not being social. You’re a NSA-pawn bogarting a good time. That’s why everyone looks at you weird when you whip it out in public.

Benefits: GPS tracking off, no recorded phone calls, much money saved. Bonus: No expensive roaming headaches. Downsides: You have to plan ahead like the ’80s. Get used to it.

2. Delete your social networks

Centralized social networks send all of your contents to NSA data centers, and who knows who else. Censorship levels are extreme: you have no idea what might get you filtered out of the stream. Algorithms are running your brain around in an endless loop telling you that you have an interesting life. All of the interesting things on the Internet happen outside of centralized social networks now, on known trusted networks and mesh/darknets.

Who in their right mind would log into a place that’s going to keep records of all of your “private” conversations for eternity?

If it’s trending on Twitter, it’s probably government propoganda. The revolution won’t be tweeted.

The best approach is to delete your centralized social networking profiles, and get the fuck out. It’s 1999 on the Internet, kids. It’s time to use email, and IRCfor your communication needs. This won’t stop your messages from being read, but it does make it harder.

Benefits: You won’t be giving away tons of data to corporations and the NSA for free, and it will be much more difficult to pick out your signal from the noise. Downsides: None

3. Bounce your IP around the world

Smart Internet users bounce their internet traffic around the world a few times using The Tor Project. Tor is an easy-to-use alternative browser you can download and install on your system. Now you can browse the Internet with less fear. Do your homework, there are still ways your privacy can be compromised while you use Tor.

Tor was designed so dissidents in countries without freedom of speech can speak their minds. Now that the United States is on that list, you can browse the Internet and speak your mind with less fear using Tor. Dodging Internet censorship and totalitarian government agents isn’t only for people in China, Syria, and Singapore anymore. Lucky for you, some smart people thought about this problem before you had it.

4. Create a trusted computer

If you’re using a closed-source operating system, you won’t be able to trust your computer. Chances are if you’re using a Microsoft, Apple or Google operating system you are being keylogged, or worse.

The best way to sidestep this is to get you some Linux on your computer. And not Ubuntu, because Ubuntu is spyware.

When you build your own Linux operating system from a minimal install, you’ll be less likely to be running malicious software without your knowledge. You’ll also learn a lot about computing while you’re at it.

I use Arch Linux. You can make your own choices about which Linux distro you choose. There’s a list of active Linux distros here.

Sending private messages over the Internet

None of these methods are a surefire plan to send private messages over the Internet. Being able to send cryptographically secure messages over the Internet is a hard problem. Getting a Hushmail account is probably not going to help you much. The only true private email service shut down earlier this year.

The good news is there are a lot of very smart people working on this problem. In time we will find secure ways to communicate over the Internet without being watched, listened to, and censored.

Do you have any ideas about how to gain more privacy in the digital space? Do you have questions? email me This is the first in a series of three posts about why its safer on the move. If you want to get the next two posts, email me and ask to get on the list. I’ll send you a message when the next post in the series is published.

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