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TIP SHEET: How to Protect Yourself Online (VIDEO)

Citizen Watchdog and Generation Opportunity joined forces for the webinar “Government Snooping: How to Protect Yourself Online.” The video from the webinar can be found at the bottom of this post.

Generation Opportunity’s Evan Feinberg and Watchdog.org‘s civil liberties reporter Eric Boehm discussed the alarming details of government spying.

Recent media reports have prompted an “independent review” of the government’s spying program. Boehm reported earlier Tuesday—as discussed in the webinar—that the review is headed up by James Clapper,¬†the director of national intelligence, who previously denied the existence of such programs.

Did you know that the federal government has a “data hub” which is a compilation of information collected by multiple agencies? Did you also know that data collected by the NSA is being used to go after common criminals?

We don’t know much about the government’s efforts to spy on law-abiding Americans, but here’s what we know so far:

  1. We’ve learned a lot because of the actions of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and others. PRISM, for instance, is a program collecting cellphone data. The primary means of collection is a program called “Upstream” which acts as a large-scale wiretap. The government also tracks and collects data on web searches.
  2. The government appears to be actively involved in shutting down alternatives that allow citizens to use the web securely.
  3. Many companies that do business on the Internet are actively cooperating with the government, including popular web destinations like Google and Facebook.

For more on this, be sure to watch the video at the bottom!

But first, Watchdog Wire’s tip sheet on how to protect yourself online (taken, in large part, from the webinar content):

1. Use Firefox as Your Web Browser

Web browsers are how we access the web. Many of you may use Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Safari, but these browsers do not make their entire code public, meaning it is impossible to know how secure they really are compared to Firefox, which makes its code public.

Firefox, as an open-source platform, is controlled by its users, not a large corporation which can be pressured into handing over your private information. It also has easy to use privacy settings.

2. Delete Your Cache and Cookies Frequently

Clearing your web data from your browser isn’t just a way to hide your search history from family or friends. It’s also a way to hide your search history from potential hackers, including those of the government variety.

If you are following step one, check out this helpful link for clearing your history on Firefox: http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/how-clear-firefox-cache. If you aren’t following our first bit of advice, you’ll have to do the Google search yourself.

3. Use an Alternative Email Service

One such alternative is Rise Up*. Another service, Lavabit, shut itself down to avoid giving up information to the federal government. Edward Snowden used a Lavabit email address while stuck in the Moscow airport.

If you use an email client (such as Outlook), consider switching to Mozilla Thunderbird.

4. Don’t Use a Static IP Address

Your IP (Internet Protocol) address can be used to trace online activity back to your location.

To prevent this, use a program like Tor, which reroutes your IP address and “prevents anyone from learning your location or browsing habits.”

5. Don’t Use Google, Bing, or Yahoo for Searches

You’ve probably seen the “Bing It On Challenge” commercials pitting Microsoft’s Bing service against Google. Guess what? They both collect your data and hand it off to third parties.

Instead of those services, use the search engine DuckDuckGo.

6. Stay Informed

There are plenty of other ways to stay safe on the internet. For more information visit these helpful links:



Webinar Video:

For more from Eric Boehm, check out his stories at Watchdog.org, Watchdog Wire’s sister site. For more from Evan Feinberg, be sure to visit his organization, Generation Opportunity, on the web.

* Watchdog Wire is citing Rise Up as a tech security resource, and does not necessarily endorse the group’s mission

Josh Kaib

Josh Kaib is the Assistant Editor of Watchdog Wire. Twitter: @joshkaib

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