By now everyone knows that the NSA is snooping on phone calls, credit card transactions, possibly even Internet communications.
What we should all know, though, is that this is not the end of privacy. It’s just the beginning of being more careful with communications you consider sensitive.
There are a few methods to communicate over the web and over the phone without revealing yourself to the NSA.
1. Burner Companies:
Philip Bump of the Atlantic Wire gave a pretty good explanation of burner companies: basically very new Internet chat platforms.
Most chats leave the user’s computer (point A) encrypted and are then only unencrypted when they reach the object computer (point B).
The only way to interrupt this — whether it’s the FBI or NSA — is to have the particular platform (like Verizon) provide access to the communications.
Usually the FBI and NSA targets huge platforms, not start-ups.
So the answer is simple: Find a low-level, new chat company that hasn’t yet been gobbled up by the Googles, Microsofts, or Yahoos of the world. The FBI and NSA are much less likely to target a small Internet company.
2. Burner phones:
Nicholas Weaver over at Wired has a pretty good breakdown of how to use burner phones and burner computers.
For a burner phone, make sure you’ve left every item that communicates via wifi at home. Then pick a bodega in a shady part of town where they are likely to have old surveillance cameras.
Buy a prepaid phone with cash. Take the battery out of it.
Go to a small coffee shop. Put the battery in, fire it up, make your phone call, then turn it off and take out the battery.
The government would certainly have more trouble tracking a phone that’s only on the grid for a couple minutes at a clip.
Weaver makes a good point here too: It’s of utmost importance to leave your personal phone at home.
Nowadays, most cell phones constantly communicate GPS data with orbiting satellites. That data tracks your position at all times — so it defeats the purpose of buying the burner phone if you so much as carry your personal phone with you.
3. Burner computers
Cookies. Track. Everything.
Cookies on your personal computer communicate your location and when you visit certain websites (among other pieces of personal data).
So the idea here is that you want to shoot anonymous emails but can’t do it from your personal computer. A personal computer has too much of a history to go untracked and untraced.
Weaver advises pretty much the same course of action as the burner phone: leave everything at home, bring cash.
Buy a cheap tablet or laptop computer, take the battery out. Walk to a coffee shop, put the battery in, sign up for a new gmail account with an anonymous, non-identifying name, shoot your email, clear cookies, reset browser history, power down, pull the battery out.
These three methods for detection avoidance don’t remove your fingerprint completely, but they do reduce the possibility of communications getting noticed by the wrong people.
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