How does a typical person use the internet?
Either you live in the Googleverse, where you use the best search engine in the world to search for everything that is important and personal to you, most likely while being logged in to your google account so that you get a more curated and intelligent search result, and bookmark some of those sites, most likely using google chrome browser so that you can store you search history and preferences and your bookmarks into a central repository, so you can have access to it in whichever computer you log into.
Or you live in the Facebook world, where all the people you know very closely, hang out and share very personal information with each other in a (supposedly) closed environment. Facebook knows where you went to school, who you went to school with, your personal taste and preference to the most intricate details.
This also applies to other companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Apple and what not. Obviously to a much smaller extent.
But all these companies has one thing in common, increasingly they are trying to shape their products and services in a way that helps them to know more about you. They are telling us that they need to know more about us to give us a better, more personal experience with their product. Which is partially true, to a certain extent personally curated services, based on personal information from us, does provide for a better experience. But, obviously, as quite a few of us know that the true intention is to provide us with a much more targeted advertisement. The targeted advertisement makes more money than random untargeted ads.
This is not how the internet always worked. Under the guise of the social internet revolution, we internet users are continuously peer-pressured into connecting our very personal life details to everything we do on the internet. We have, over the last decade or so, willingly or unwillingly, changed the way we use the internet.
I think for people like me, who greatly values their privacy and wants NSA or any government organization to stop snooping into every minutiae detail of our personal life, we need to start changing the way we use the internet.
Here is how:
- Stop using social media sites (facebook, twitter, google+) to connect to your family or friends. If you must absolutely use these sites to keep in a tab on something you enjoy like your favorite celebrity personality who only use facebook, then open an account with a one-time email account, preferably not one of the big three. Even better if the email service provider is a non-USA/EU country.
- Host your own email if you can. If you must use Gmail, limit to non-personal use.
- Self-host all open-source alternative to your web-services if possible. Mail, file backup, VPN. Get a non-us/EU vps, preferably in a country that doesn’t have good diplomatic relationship or less possibility of intelligence data sharing with other countries like US or EU.
- On the browser side, stick to Firefox. While chrome is an open source browser, many of its features rely on hooking up to google-verse services.
- Learn from this post, “How to be completely Anonymous online” and use browser plugins that automatically remove tracking codes for you.
- Don’t use skype or other closed source chatting or communication device like.
- Use Tor when possible.
- Use VPN for general internet activity, one where you have full control and access to, whenever possible.
These steps by itself won’t stop NSA or any other government organization from getting more information from you if they really targeted you specifically. No matter how smart you are or tech savvy you are, chances are if the government targeted you, there is very little you can do about it, as an individual.
But if you change the way you use the internet, it will make it much much harder to connect the real you, as a person, to your online activity. They might have bits and pieces of information about you, with their data mining and data hoarding, they are unlikely to be able to connect all these information together.
In an ideal world, we shouldn’t have to work so hard to use the internet. But we don’t live in an ideal world, we live in a world where we are continuously being pushed into controlled ecosystem under the guise of making our life better and easier and corporations are pressured, persuaded or forced by the government to give them keys to their controlled ecosystem.