How to protect your privacy on the Internet
With UK parties proposing to monitor the activities of all country residents come new fears of an 1984-esque government that with a single mouse click can find out everything there is to know about its citizens.
When you look at what is openly proposed in non-totalitarian countries, and the monitoring that happens without the public knowing about it, you'd better be prepared to take your privacy into your own hands.
If the charter passes, UK ISPs and phone providers will be required to record information about the Internet, text (as in SMS) and email use of all British residents.
While that does not include contents, it does include the visited Internet sites, and the people that UK residents have contacted via email or text messages. The data must be retained at least for a 12 month period before it can be deleted.
Protecting your privacy
Here is a set of options that you have to protect your privacy on the Internet and when using your mobile phone.
- Privacy related browser extensions: Extensions like HTTPS Everywhere or Perspectives can improve your privacy while you are browsing the Internet.
- Proxies: A proxy server disguises your IP when you make connections. Your ISP would for instance only see your connection to the proxy server and not the actual destination on the web that you are connecting to. This is of course only true if the proxy is configured correctly. Browser extensions like Proxilla or Go2 Proxy make the process more comfortable. You can alternatively check out this free web proxy list or use http / socks proxies instead.
- Opera Turbo: This is a feature of the Opera browser that redirects all of the browser's traffic through an Opera server. It works like a proxy, but with the added benefit that traffic is compressed on the server to reduce bandwidth costs. While initially designed for low speed Internet connections and pay by traffic plans, it can be used as a proxy. And Opera Turbo is maintained by a reputable company. Update: Google Chrome offers a similar feature now at least in the mobile version (and when you install this extension also in the desktop version)
- Virtual Private Networks (VPN): VPNs are without doubt the most comfortable and secure option. You establish an encrypted connection to the VPN provider so that spying is stopped in its tracks. The sites you connect to only see the IP of the VPN provider and not your own so that you can't be monitored this way as well (unless you happen to share or leak information on the sites). VPNs come at a cost, usually between $5 to $10 per month.It is recommended to pick a VPN provider that is not operating from the country you are living in, or that has ties to the country as the provider may be obligated by law to record your traffic. Most smartphones support VPN connections as well so that this is taken care of when you sign up for a virtual private network, provided you configure your phone to connect to it.
- Tor: Tor routes your Internet traffic through several servers that only know the server before and after them in the chain. Tor is free to use, and you can download a variety of tools and programs to use it on your devices. Tor is not only available for desktop computers, but also for Android. The downside is that you can't use TOR that well for for activities that require lots of bandwidth.
- Encryption / email: If you are using a VPN, then traffic to and from your email provider is automatically encrypted as well. You can alternatively encrypt your emails in Linux or in Thunderbird. Remember that the methods are only effective if all involved parties encrypt their email traffic. It does not do you anything good if you encrypt your email traffic, but a recipient in a country that is spying on its citizens is not.
Did I miss an option that you are making use of? Are you protecting your Internet connection? If so, how?Advertisement