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How to Keep the Government Off your Back Online

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I previously covered the contentious Media Bill in terms of the limitations it might place on the media. Then, I suggested ways in which it might be subverted or circumvented. My reference at the time, however, was how media houses and journalists might be able to continue their work without falling foul of the restrictions placed upon them.

What I failed to take into account, however, was the possibility that private individuals might also find themselves subject to monitoring and surveillance by instruments of the government. Now, there are many people out there who would argue that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, but would you really be happy allowing some junior civil service to track your every online move? I know I wouldn’t.

For those of us who prefer to keep a bit of electronic mystique, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has put together a Surveillance Self-Defense [sic] site, for those who are worried about being spyed on by the authorities. While the site is geared to American netizens, all of the advice provided can be used by all of those who wish to keep their online lives private. The Defensive Technology section of the site provides advice on the following areas:

  • Internet Basics
  • Encryption Basics
  • Web Browsers
  • Email
  • Instant Messaging
  • WiFi
  • Tor
  • Malware
  • Mobile Devices
  • Secure Deletion
  • File and Disk Encryption
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
  • VoIP

All of this may be excessive, but how far you take your security measures depends on how paranoid you are that “they” are out to get you. As I keep quite a bit of client information on my computer, I do take a number of security measures, though I seriously doubt anyone is really trying to spy on me. Then again, I anonymise myself behind a fire wall and also use the Track Me Not add-on for Firefox, but that is more because I like avoiding targetted advertising.

It’s not just spies and terrorists who want to fly under the radar; anyone who doesn’t wished to be tracked from site to site by cookies can also wish to muddy the waters a bit. This doesn’t make you a bad person, only less valuable to advertisers and spam merchants alike. But if your online caution also succeeds in giving you a degree of online privacy from the government, are you really going to object?

[Image by Rent-a-Moose]

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