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Church State Issues

Simple Things to Protect Your Internet Privacy

Jan 1, 2013

Yahoo News

10 Incredibly Simple Things You Should Be Doing to Protect Your Privacy

By Kashmir Hill | Forbes – Mon, Dec 31, 2012 10:55 AM EST

Over the weekend, I wound up at Washington, D.C.’s Trapeze School with a group of friends. Before one of them headed up a ladder to attempt a somersault landing from the trapeze bar, she handed me her phone and asked me to take photos. “What’s the password?” I asked. “I don’t use one,” she replied. My jaw dropped as it often does when someone I know tells me they’re choosing not to take one of the very simplest steps for privacy protection, allowing anyone to snoop through their phone with the greatest of ease, to see whichever messages, photos, and sensitive apps they please.

So this post is for you, guy with no iPad password, and for you, girl who stays signed into Gmail on her boyfriend’s computer, and for you, person walking down the street having a loud conversation on your mobile phone about your recent doctor’s diagnosis of that rash thing you have. These are the really, really simple things you should be doing to keep casual intruders from invading your privacy.

1. Password protect your devices: your smartphone, your iPad, your computer, your tablet, etc. Some open bookers tell me it’s “annoying” to take two seconds to type in a password before they can use their phone. C’mon, folks. Choosing not to password protect these devices is the digital equivalent of leaving your home or car unlocked. If you’re lucky, no one will take advantage of the access. Or maybe the contents will be ravaged and your favorite speakers and/or secrets stolen. If you’re not paranoid enough, spend some time reading entries in Reddit Relationships, where many an Internet user goes to discuss issues of the heart. A good percentage of the entries start, “I know I shouldn’t have, but I peeked at my gf’s phone and read her text messages, and…”

If a police officer stops you and wants more information about you in addition to illegally searching you, your car and your home, they almost always will grab your cell phone and attempt to steal all the data on it. Password protecting your cell phone will usually prevent officer unfriendly from doing this. And don't use your birth date, middle name or any other information the police officer can steal from you for your password.

Remember the police officer has your driver's license which contains your birth date and you middle name.

And don't voluntarily give your cell phone password to the police officer as many people do according to this article.

You are under no obligation to tell the police anything including the password to your phone or the combination to your safe. Take the 5th Amendment and refuse to tell anything to the police.

Many of our ancestors died fighting to give us our 5th Amendment rights. Don't give us that right just because some crooked police officer threatens you.

2. Put a Google Alert on your name. This is an incredibly easy way to stay on top of what’s being said about you online. It takes less than a minute to do. Go here. [ http://www.google.com/alerts ] Enter your name, and variations of your name, with quotation marks around it. Boom. You’re done.

3. Sign out of Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, etc. when you’re done with your emailing, social networking, tweeting, and other forms of time-wasting. Not only will this slightly reduce the amount of tracking of you as you surf the Web, this prevents someone who later sits down at your computer from loading one of these up and getting snoopy. If you’re using someone else’s or a public computer, this is especially important. Yes, people actually forget to do this, with terrible outcomes.

4. Don’t give out your email address, phone number, or zip code when asked. Obviously, if a sketchy dude in a bar asks for your phone number, you say no. But when the asker is a uniform-wearing employee at Best Buy, many a consumer hands over their digits when asked. Stores often use this info to help profile you and your purchase. You can say no. If you feel badly about it, just pretend the employee is the sketchy dude in the bar.

And don't voluntarily give your cell phone password or any other information to the police. Many people do according to this article do.

The Fifth Amendment says you don't have to give ANYTHING to the police. If you don't use it, you will lose it.

5. Encrypt your computer. The word “encrypt” may sound like a betrayal of the simplicity I promised in the headline, but this is actually quite easy to do, especially if you’re a MacHead. Encrypting your computer means that someone has to have your password (or encryption key) in order to peek at its contents should they get access to your hard drive. On a Mac, you just go to your settings, choose “Security and Privacy,” go to “FileVault,” choose the “Turn on FileVault” option. Boom goes the encryption dynamite. PC folk need to use Bitlocker [ technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc766295%28v=ws.10%29.aspx ].

And don't give the password to a police officer if he asks you! Take the 5th Amendment! It's your RIGHT.

Also remember cryptology experts can sometimes decrypt the data on you computer. If you are a big enough fish the police will call in the cryptology experts

If you don't want somebody to know about something it probably shouldn't be on your computer.

6. Gmailers, turn on 2-step authentication in Gmail. The biggest takeaway from the epic hack of Wired’s Mat Honan was that it probably wouldn’t have happened if he’d turned on “2-step verification” in Gmail. This simple little step turns your phone into a security fob — in order for your Gmail account to be accessed from a new device, a person (hopefully you) needs a code that’s sent to your phone. This means that even if someone gets your password somehow, they won’t be able to use it to sign into your account from a strange computer. Google says that millions of people use this tool, and that “thousands more enroll each day.” Be one of those people. The downside: It’s annoying if your phone battery dies or if you’re traveling abroad. The upside: you can print a piece of paper to take with you, says James Fallows at the Atlantic. Alternately, you can turn it off when you’re going to be abroad or phone-less. Or you can leave it permanently turned off, and increase your risk of getting epically hacked. Decision’s yours.

7. Pay in cash for embarrassing items. Don’t want a purchase to be easily tracked back to you? You’ve seen the movies! Use cash. One data mining CEO says this is how he pays for hamburgers and junk food these days.

8. Change Your Facebook settings to “Friends Only.” You’d think with the many Facebook privacy stories over the years that everyone would have their accounts locked down and boarded up like Florida houses before a hurricane. Not so. There are still plenty of Facebookers that are as exposed on the platform as Katy Perry at a water park. Visit your Facebook privacy settings. Make sure this “default privacy” setting isn’t set to public, and if it’s set to “Custom,” make sure you know and are comfortable with any “Networks” you’re sharing with.

9. Clear your browser history and cookies on a regular basis. When’s the last time you did that? If you just shrugged, consider changing your browser settings so that this is automatically cleared every session. Go to the “privacy” setting in your Browser’s “Options.” Tell it to “never remember your history.” This will reduce the amount you’re tracked online. Consider a browser add-on like TACO to further reduce tracking of your online behavior. [If the police arrest you or get a search warrant they will definitely look at your browser history. Erase it to make life difficult for police who want to make life difficult for you. Also remember that even if you erase your browser history, many web sites keep logs showing each time you visited their sites. ]

10. Use an IP masker. When you visit a website, you leave a footprint behind in the form of IP information. If you want to visit someone’s blog without their necessarily knowing it’s you — say if you’re checking out a biz competitor, a love interest, or an ex — you should consider masking your computer’s fingerprint, which at the very least gives away your approximate location and service provider. A person looking at their analytics would notice me as a regular visitor from Washington, D.C. for example, and would probably even be able to tell that I was visiting from a Forbes network address. To hide this, you can download Tor [ https://www.torproject.org/ ] or use an easy browser-based option.

These are some of the easiest things you can do to protect your privacy. Ignoring these is like sending your personal information out onto the trapeze without a safety net. It might do fine… or it could get ugly. These are simple tips for basic privacy; if you’re in a high-risk situation where you require privacy from malicious actors, check out EFF’s surveillance self-defense tips [ https://ssd.eff.org/ ].