Digital Privacy: An Upcoming How-To

I have a personal interest in my privacy both online and in the physical world. There’s no real reason behind it besides a knowledge that it is my right not to have my privacy invaded, and a feeling of insult that it is invaded anyway on probably a daily basis.

Sources of this invasion include my ISP, Marketing Widgets on the internet, Possibly the odd hacker and the NSA, who are doubtless running programs that scan my email and monitor browsing statistics to identify them terrur-wrists at work on the internet.

The fact is that nowadays there really are people reading your email, and other people watching everything you do. It’s so easy for them to do it, that it’s impossible someone isn’t. Data travels through largely accessible hubs, and most of the time your identity is quite transparent to anyone who cares to look.

For example: a while back, a friend of mine was subjected to an email phishing scam, which resulted in her losing her email address and having the scammer try to trick many friends and family members into sending money to Africa to save her from supposed extortion.

When she got her address back after asking Yahoo to help, she showed me the email. I recorded the sender’s IP address, and with some help from a friend of mine experienced in Scambaiting I showed her an aerial photograph of a house that it probably came from.

As it turns out in this case, that was incorrect; the scammer was using a satellite internet system, and was in fact in Africa but was wired through to the internet in America, where we took the picture. However, the pricinpal would hold in the vast majority of cases: get an IP address, track it back to a local area. Know who their ISP is, search property listings of the area to find out their likely socioeconomic status.

Worse yet, many sites record these IP address visits in publicly accessible statistics files. So, I was able in that case to track what the scammer had been doing online. I set up a google alert for his IP addresses, and found out (for example) that he fancied himself a member of a secret society, and posted regularly on the cultish, banned fraternity called the “Airlords”.

I could do this without any real authority to, and without breaking laws. Imagine what your ISP could do, seeing as it does everything that you do through its connection. Imagine what the NSA sees when it just trawls the internet for keywords and phrases, or tracks your habits as they pass through the internet’s central servers in the US.

Sure, you’ve nothing to hide. But that doesn’t give anyone else the unwarranted privelage to invade your privacy and read through your personal emails.

So, I’ll be posting soon (when I’ve researched things sufficiently myself) about how to preserve your privacy online, with minimal effort beyond setup. From Firefox plugins like Adblock, which can be used to prevent monitoring by marketing systems in many cases, to systems like TOR and Proxy services (and a few clever tricks, too), I’ll try to demonstrate ways to reclaim what is rightfully yours without feeling like you’re browsing with lead weights attached.

More on this soon!