Privacy and what you can do to have some (at least in your mind)

Well, I’ve whined about privacy and how much or how little we seem to have online. Now I’ll share with you a few tips I’ve picked up and use to at least attempt to have some privacy.

The first thing to do is SECURE YOUR EMAIL. Everyone I know seems to think that email can’t be read because they don’t know how to sneak around and read it. Sorry Mom, but just because you don’t know how to hack a server or intercept packets does NOT mean that the kid next door isn’t reading your email about Mrs. Smith’s affair with the pool boy. Your email is sent across the internet just like this blog post. Anyone so inclined could pick it up and read it.

Go get Thunderbird and add the extension “Enigmail”. Make a GPG key and use it. There are a LOT of tutorials on the web for how to do this, so I won’t waste my time. For all of you nay-sayers – yes, I know the NSA might be able to pop this encryption. That doesn’t mean we have to leave email out there for the neighbor kid to read or make it any easier for the NSA.

Next on my list is TorPark for internet browsing. I would not recommend using TorPark as your everyday browser. It is notoriously slow as a result of all the anonymizing it does. Please be aware that this browser is built from Firefox, which I hope you are already using. Also be alert that TorPark may not be 100% effective, but it’s a heck of a lot better than using nothing.

If you have a microphone and speakers (or a headset) you should consider using VoIP. VoIP is (in it’s simplest explanation) making phone calls over the internet. This comes in extremely handy if you are in one part of the country and have relatives/friends in another part of the country or world. If you travel a lot, you could use this program to call back home and talk to your significant other or kids and talk as long as you want. Skype is FREE.

Skype is also allowing outgoing calls to regular phone numbers for free within the US and Canada for the rest of the year. So even if you can’t get others to switch, just save on your phone costs for the rest of the year! The reason this is included in a “privacy” post is that Skype is also encrypted. No need to worry about Joe Smith hacker listening to your VoIP calls when using it.

Please be aware that you should only use VoIP if you have a broadband internet connection. Sending voices over the lines uses a lot of bandwidth, so dial-up users are out of luck for now.

That’s my quick and dirty suggestions for how to maintain some sense of privacy on the internet. Granted, none of these are perfect, but they are reasonable solutions to the issue of maintaining privacy while enjoying the internet.

Also, you may find this site a good read. They sell a USB key called “Democrakey” that has these applications and more. Plus, you can carry it in your pocket to use at the library, on the road, at a friends house, or wherever.