How To Become Invisible To The NSA's Domestic Spying Program

Flickr/Alan CleaverA designer named Peng Zhong feels so strongly opposed to PRISM, the NSA’s domestic spying program, that he created a site to educate people on how to “opt out” of it.

According to the original report that brought PRISM to public attention, the nine companies that “participate knowingly” with the NSA are Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple.

Zhong’s approach is to replace your workflow with open-source tools that aren’t attached to these companies, since they easily stay well off the government’s radar.

If you want to drop totally off the map, it’ll take quite a commitment. (Are you ready to give up your operating system?)

We’ve gathered our favourites of the apps Zhong mentioned. If you want to see all these and more, check out his site.

Alternative operating systems

It's nearly certain that you use either Apple's OS X, Google's Chrome OS, or Microsoft's Windows. And guess what? If PRISM works as described, it can access and retrieve system files from your computer.

If you want to make your as invisible as possible, you're better off running an alternative operating system like Debian or GNU.

Alternative web browsers

Tor is a decentralized way to navigate the web without leaving a trail, but you have to be a slightly tech-proficient to configure it correctly. Grab help from a technologically fluent friend or follow a walkthrough online.

If you've chosen to install GNU, you might also use GNUzilla, a GNU-friendly version of the Mozilla software suite (it obviously includes Firefox).

Privacy plugins for your browser

You can use Torbutton to instantly enable Tor, a method of browsing the Web in such a way that you're untrackable.

We also like HTTPS Everywhere, which forces your browser to use HTTPS, a far more secure protocol than HTTP.

Alternative web search

Major search engines keep track of what you search for. And that's probably an embarrassment waiting to happen.

Use a search engine like DuckDuckGo to keep your searches to yourself.

Alternative DNS provider

This one's a pretty specialised tool that most won't care about, but if your job or hobby has you messing with DNS, you may want to check out the OpenNIC Project.

If you want to securely browse the 'Darknet,' the alternative internet that exists in a layer that the major browsers can't access, try I2P.

There's also Nightweb, which serves the same purpose for Android devices.

Alternative payment systems

Bitcoin is the standout giant when it comes to off-record anonymized money transfers.

Alternative email services

Who wants Big Brother maybe or maybe not reading email over your shoulder? Bitmessage is awesome for just that purpose.

You might consider it the Bitcoin of email -- it's decentralized and anonymous, and essential details like the sender's address can't be imitated.

Alternative desktop email clients

Skip Outlook and opt for a program like Thunderbird, which meets all the same basic needs.

Ways to encrypt your email

PGP is an awesome way to send secure and encrypted email. There's no easier way to use it that than with help from a Thunderbird plugin called Enigmail, which operates inside your mail client.

Alternative maps

Think of OpenStreetMaps as existing at the intersection of Wikipedia and Google Maps. It's a crowdsourced mapping system, meaning that people all over the world have collaborated to build a map of the world from scratch.

Alternative cloud storage

Gone will be your days of Dropbox if you want to keep your cloud storage private. SparkleShare is an awesome way to do this instead.

It's pretty fully-featured, offering a lot of the same services you'd get from major cloud services, like file syncing. It's even free and open source. This is self-hosted, however, meaning you or a tech-savvy friend will have to set it up on your own.

Alternative social networks

It shouldn't come as a surprise, but if you want to be sure you never get PRISM's attention, it's time to say goodbye to Facebook and Twitter. We like GNU Social, a self-hosted and secure network all its own.

Good luck getting your friends to join.

Alternative instant messaging clients

Pidgin and Adium are rock-solid substitutes for AIM and Google Talk, as well as most other chat protocols.

Alternative videoconferencing

Jitsi lets you videoconference, share desktops, and even just do a plain old voice call over the internet.

Alternative media publishing platforms

We use WordPress for our own personal web publishing ambitions and recommend it without much reservation. If you have webspace and a domain name, you can have your own personal website up and running in about 10 or 15 minutes.

Yes, you can register a free WordPress account and start posting right away on WordPress's site, but then you're playing in theirsandbox. The idea in self-hosting it is to cut the cord on as many internet services as possible, opting for those that you can control inside and out.

Alternative document collaboration services

Etherpad is an open-source alternative to software like Google Docs. It successfully handles real-time document collaboration

Alternative web analytics

People running a website with any degree of seriousness will live and die by the traffic analytics. Often times these come from Google Analytics, but Piwik is an open-source analytics engine that offers the same features.

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