October 27, 2010
Cochin, Kerala State, India
India is a great country that’s full of opportunity… but one of the things that I dislike so much about it is that it’s a rapidly expanding electronic police state.
The Indian government has a habit of monitoring email communications, and you probably remember the recent stink they made with Research in Motion about the Blackberry security algorithms. In the latest round, RIM now has until January 31, 2011 to provide India’s intelligence agencies a way of accessing the data.
To be fair, it isn’t just India… it’s nearly every government on the planet, at least the ones who have the resources and the arrogance to monitor their own citizens in the name of false security.
Some people believe that if they’re not doing anything wrong, they have nothing to worry about. Well, I’m not one of them. This ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ mentality is a dangerous slippery slope.
Privacy is a right, not a privilege, and we’ve already lost so much of it. Financial privacy, for example, has nearly been vanquished from this earth, and with things like RFID passports anti-terrorism provisions, governments can track most aspects of our lives.
Fortunately, though, online privacy is much easier to safeguard, and there are a variety of cheap (or even free) electronic tools to do this.
We’ve talked before about planting electronic flags; this includes using an email provider that’s based outside of your home country. If you’re a US resident and use Hotmail, or you’re Canadian and use Shaw, any bureaucrat can freeze or seize your email with little effort.
Switching to a number of overseas providers can substantially mitigate this risk, and most of the offshore services are absolutely free.
When browsing the web, you also have to expect that your activity is being monitored and logged. Google, which has the world’s greatest market share of search traffic, routinely archives users’ search requests along with IP addresses and click history.
Needless to say, this information is frequently subpoenaed, and Google complies with lawful requests.
If this sounds OK to you, then you should probably stop reading here. Otherwise, I’d suggest a number of ways to take back your online privacy.
It honestly takes very little effort to cover your digital tracks these days. Plenty of free proxies are available– these are websites that mask your IP address and provide a superficial level of privacy. On the downside, they’re not terribly secure, and they have annoying banner links as well.
I use a professional service that’s pretty much the Rolls Royce of online privacy. Not only does it fully mask IP and other identifying information (that the free proxies miss), but it also encrypts all web traffic so that no intelligible information can be monitored.
The service is called Cryptohippie, and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re serious about your online privacy. You can learn more about their service here.
Effectively, the spooks are going to think that you’re in Timbuktu, and even if they could monitor the web activity, all they’ll see is a bunch of gibberish. For me, this not only safeguards my online privacy, but it also protects me when I’m using an open WiFi network in a coffee shop or some other public place.
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