Us permies are more known for our ability to repair landscape and create eco-paradises of food abundance than computer wizardry. What can we do in this world of total government surveillance and rampant cyber-crime?
As a permaculture professional and former IT consultant of global corporations, I thought I’d share with you some basic steps you can take to protect your online privacy.
Stop serving Google
First of all, stop serving your innermost thoughts to Google. They track you, filter you, censor you and snoop on your home wifi network in technological drive-bys. Why trust a company that needs to tell you that they “do no evil”?
The power of duck
Use the Power of Duck instead. DuckDuckGo.com is a secure and better way to search the web. Try it for a week and don’t look back.
You really gotta ditch that ad-infested, spying, corporate controlled email address too (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc). They may be easy and appealing, but they are not free. We pay dearly for them in non-dollar terms. Did you know that when you use both Gmail & Google search, all your searches are recorded under your own name? But no worries, there are heaps of small but excellent email services out there.
I personally love lavabit.com, where privacy and security is so important even lavabit employees can’t read your mail. Get an @lavabit.com email address for free or an account for your own custom email address for next to nothing. Small businesses might consider Zoho Mail.
If you want to take it a step further and want to put a sealed envelope around your email as it whizzes around the internet so nobody can read it en route (email is no more private than a postcard), then look into GPG encryption (windows, mac).
(Anti-) Social Media
Then there’s Facebook and Twitter. I simply don’t use them, period. Facebook was partially funded by intelligence services. Besides, with so much meaningful work to do in the real world, who has time to waste consuming mindless information? I unplugged from the matrix before they got popular and couldn’t care less.
Ok, for those of you who are saying but… but… but… at least look into Diaspora*. It is a free open-source peer-to-peer social media platform that lets you connect with the world on your own terms. Very interesting…. Or use permaculture’s own social network — www.permacultureglobal.com.
Choose your surfboard wisely
Next, you should be using Firefox. It is open source and built around security and privacy. Make sure Firefox is set not to accept third-party cookies and have it automatically delete all cookies on exit (cookies store information about you and can track your visits).
Firefox also has great add-ons to help plug those personal data leaks:
- HTTPS-Everywhere: use secure internet connections whenever possible
- Ghostery : stop websites from tracking you, or
- Adbock Edge : I’ve been surfing the net ad-free for years and whenever I use someone else’s computer I’m appalled at the commercial garbage cluttering up the net and our minds.
How to be invisible
Firefox with all its privacy add-ons goes a long way for everyday use, but if you want to be truly anonymous you’ll need Tor. After all, your local ISP is recording your activities online too.
Let’s not skype this weekend
Bye bye Dropbox, Hei Jotta Cloud!
If you’ve read this far, it’ll be no surprise that iCloud, Google Drive, MS SkyDrive and even Dropbox are out of the question. Why not have your files safely stored in Norway’s JottaCloud? It’s just like Dropbox, but Norway’s privacy laws are the strictest in the world and you get 5GB storage space! Or you may prefer New Zealands’s Mega, or host your ownCloud.
Dude, you got a bug in your pocket
Let’s not forget that there’s over 6 billion mobile phones out there. I’m guessing you have one too. All the internet security in the world doesn’t help if you’ve got a tracking device in your pocket.
When I worked at Nokia a decade ago, the oldest man at the company told me at his retirement party that the only way to guarantee any conversation is private (phone and face-to-face) is to remove the battery from the phone. Sorry iPhone users. Though, I do admit that I have a mobile too. It’s a tough old Nokia and I use a cash-purchased anonymous prepaid sim card. My “bill” last month was 41 cents.
Privacy bang for your buck
Using permaculture input vs. output analysis, you’ll get the most privacy for the least effort by following the above advice. However, if you’re keen to walk that extra mile for the protection of your online privacy, there’s still a lot you can do. But don’t forget, none of this helps if it isn’t applied with a bit of common sense.
HAL, what is quantum computing?
You can’t stop personal privacy intrusion and surveillance. You can only decrease the probability of it occurring. Yet despite all of our efforts, next-generation supercomputers called Quantum computers, will tear through our meagre defences, including today’s military-grade encryption. In fact, the NSA and Google just bought one and split the bill.