By Sebastian Villarreal
Image by Lauren Gallagher
These are simple pleas: Please encrypt everything, please care about privacy, please make it harder to spy on us.
The Snowden revelations proved that that basically all of our digital communications are accessible to the state.
While privacy may not matter to everyone, there are people for whom privacy does matter, and it matters a great deal. People like:
- International aid workers
- Investigative journalists
- Future you
A NEEDLE IN A TINY HAYSTACK
Most of us, however, remain fantastically complacent about privacy. “I have nothing to hide.” “What does the NSA care about my reading habits?”
But when we fail to act securely, we draw attention to those who do: a red flag goes up somewhere saying, “Hey, this person has something to hide.”
Our inaction when it comes to privacy puts freedom fighters at risk. We have a civic responsibility to add to the noise and mask the signal.
ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU
Of course, the fact that we don’t care about privacy today doesn’t mean we won’t care about it tomorrow. Obama expanded the spying apparatus to a dystopian degree. That apparatus is now in the hands of Donald Trump, Steve Bannon et al.
This means it’s exceedingly important to start using private communication channels as soon as possible. You don’t want to change your behavior once people are looking. That’s basically a bat signal that says “Look at me, I’m doing something you should be suspicious of!”
A Practical Guide for Staying [redacted] in the Panopticon
- USE SIGNAL INSTEAD OF FACEBOOK, OR EMAIL
Signal is an open-source app which is the state-of-the-art in text and voice encryption. It has a few advantages over basically all other implementations:
- It’s open source, which means the code is vetted by independent security experts.
- It’s as easy to use as texting.
- The only metadata available is whether you use the service or not—no one can tell who you talked to or when.
- It’s the solution of choice of Laura Poitras, Bruce Schneier and Edward Snowden
If for some reason you can’t use Signal (but seriously, you can), then use another end-to-end encrypted service like WhatsApp. Read about signal at whispersystems.org
Avoid using text messages, Facebook chat/Gchat, or email. Anything you send to these services is basically free game for a government agency. All they have to do is file a National Security Letter. This gives them free access to any data stored at any company (and that company will be under gag order not to tell you about it). Over 300,000 National Security Letters have been filed.
- ENCRYPT OFTEN AND WIDELY
Don’t just use encryption when you need it. Use it to talk to your friends. Use it to coordinate dinner. Use it to talk to people outside of your social group. Drown the signal in noise.
- USE TOR TO HIDE YOUR WEB TRAFFIC
Tor will bounce your online traffic around the world, making it effectively anonymous. Tor is easy to do wrong so simply download the Tor browser from torproject.org and use that.
Intelligence cares as much about the things you read as about the things you say. Pattern-matching is powerful. Don’t leave a trace.