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Schweb's Lounge Forum for general conversation, chit chat, or most topics that don't fit in another forum.

Internet privacy, my concerns, and what I'm doing to protect myself


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ursus262

 
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Many of you will have recently heard about The Guardian's revelations about the activities of the security services in the United States following the comments made by a whistleblower.

I am very worried by these developments, especially given that some innocent people here in the UK have had problems with misinterpretation of data about them. I am worried about my privacy now that i have heard these revelations. I wasn't really aware of the extent of the abuse of our privacy and I am really worried about it and I am about to take some significant steps to improve my security.

Firstly, the most important step that I am taking, is that I am assuming that most (if not all) United States-based service providers are not safe, even for EU citizens, and have decided to migrate over two services - my email and calendaring service, and my cloud storage - to European-based providers whose servers are within the EU and thus are covered by the EU directive governing privacy. Neither of these services are free, and will have to be paid for, but it's a price worth paying to ensure privacy.

Secondly, I am now using an encrypted VPN which provides anonymity and security, so that even my ISP cannot track which sites I am visiting.

I am not sure what to do about Facebook though, as it's a principal way of staying in touch with friends. Does anyone have any suggestions about this?
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This is an interesting perspective from a citizen of a country that watches it's citizens through closed circuit cameras everywhere..

Anyway..what the Guardian reveled as surveillance is nothing new for the US or any other country in todays day and age. The amount of information that is collected about you and has been collected already since the advent of the Internet is staggering and taking a coupe of steps now is going to inconvenience you more than others..

One of the things that gets lost in all of the revelations is that if the governments just grab ALL the data that's out there, the sheer amount of information is so overwhelming that sifting through it all would take many years for a large array of computers, so it's a matter of searching for specific stuff and somehow correlating it to some useful intelligence that can be acted upon..

While I don't want to minimize the invasion of privacy that you might feel from the actions of the US or any other government, about the only way to totally control that is to cut yourself off from the Internet entirely..

At the end of the day, if you do nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about..

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ursus262

 
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I disagree. Saying that if one does no wrong then one has nothing to worry about is intellectual laziness. Just because I'm a law-abiding citizen does not give the state (specially a foreign power) to interrogate my data.

I am also aware of how CCTV is used in the United Kingdom, and it worries me. I am notthing special as an individual, but I do believe in setting an example - an example that I hope others will follow.
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cptkrf

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raz0rEdge View Post

At the end of the day, if you do nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about..
I violently disagree. In a certain, shall we say, undemocratic nation in the middle of the last century, according to most histories, people living next door to someone who was hauled off in the middle of the night comforted themselves with the idea that "They must have done something wrong - otherwise the police wouldn't have taken them. I'm not doing anything wrong so I'm safe."

Besides, what "they" think is wrong might not coincide with what I think is wrong. Who gave them the power to decide on the rightness or wrongness of everything? "I want to paint my house yellow." "If you do, you will be subject to arrest and fines because We, In The Name Of The People, think that is 'wrong'."

The problem is that when YOU someday suddenly wake up and find out that you do indeed have something to worry about, I have to wake up also in the same conditions.

Remember what it is like to receive a letter from the IRS, and how you break out into a sweat until you open it? And the relief to find that it is just a notice that they changed something on your tax form and no big deal. That nervousness is trivial compared to other places where people try to do no "wrong."

I've lived in a country where everything everybody does is logged and people cringe when someone unexpectedly knocks on the door.

It ain't fun.

"We get the government we deserve."
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- If you don't want to see nudity...stay out of strip clubs.
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- If you want 100% internet privacy...stay off the internet!

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Originally Posted by pigoo3 View Post
- If you want 100% internet privacy...stay off the internet!
Anything that is packetized is rife with the possibility of monitoring. This is simply the nature of digital communications. Additionally, since the only thing that separates which packet is what (and thus belongs to whom) is the header, it's almost impossible to monitor one specific individuals packets without at least grabbing others. So, if you wish to have anonymity, the answer is pretty simple. Don't use the Internet, don't use telephones, don't use credit cards, don't possess cars newer than say a 1997ish manufacturing date,

Oh and close your facebook account immediately, since it's free.. remember YOU are the product, I'd be willing to bet that the account agreement gives them lots of latitude to data mine from your posts.

well.. this is actually pretty drastic I suppose. The reality is more likely that these data streams are being sniffed for keywords or other metadata that matches known patterns, and others are deleted. After all, there really isn't enough storage space to store this stuff indefinitely (we create more data now within a year, than all of civilization did prior to the year 2000 the last time I heard). I also would be highly surprised if GCHQ didn't have similar programs, along with every other countries security services. It's the nature of the digital age.

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Originally Posted by ursus262 View Post
Firstly, the most important step that I am taking, is that I am assuming that most (if not all) United States-based service providers are not safe, even for EU citizens, and have decided to migrate over two services - my email and calendaring service, and my cloud storage - to European-based providers whose servers are within the EU and thus are covered by the EU directive governing privacy. Neither of these services are free, and will have to be paid for, but it's a price worth paying to ensure privacy.
Although a reasonable step if you have concern about foreign ownership of your data, the EU is still multinational and, at its very basic, still a political apparatus that will do what it needs to in the name of "security." In other words, don't be surprised if there is ruthless information collection amongst EU states.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ursus262 View Post
Secondly, I am now using an encrypted VPN which provides anonymity and security, so that even my ISP cannot track which sites I am visiting.
VPNs are by no means bulletproof. Remember, you've got to connect to that VPN so someone out there has the capacity to track you.

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Originally Posted by ursus262 View Post
I am not sure what to do about Facebook though, as it's a principal way of staying in touch with friends. Does anyone have any suggestions about this?
My philosophy on Facebook - you surrender your rights to privacy by using Facebook. FB is designed to be an exhibition of your life (in part) and although you have a right to protect and regulate that, as a service designed to convey stuff about your life, you can't make much of an argument here. Either limit what you put up on Facebook or be comfortable knowing that what you put up there is now in the hands of many other people.

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Originally Posted by Raz0rEdge View Post
Anyway..what the Guardian reveled as surveillance is nothing new for the US or any other country in todays day and age.
CSEC in Canada and various domestic programs in European nation states will, I imagine, be doing something similar.

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ursus262

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vansmith View Post
Although a reasonable step if you have concern about foreign ownership of your data, the EU is still multinational and, at its very basic, still a political apparatus that will do what it needs to in the name of "security." In other words, don't be surprised if there is ruthless information collection amongst EU states.
The EU doesn't actually have its own security apparatus, but the member states do. The operation of these security states is governed by an overarching EU Directive which guarantees citizens' privacy. In fact, following the recent revelations, the EU Commissioner for privacy has written to the US Govt demanding an explanation. My instinct is that EU Governments are not intrusive or authoritarian. Unfortunately, I don't have that feeling about the US Government, hence my concern.
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Originally Posted by ursus262 View Post
My instinct is that EU Governments are not intrusive or authoritarian. Unfortunately, I don't have that feeling about the US Government, hence my concern.
Although I understand the point you are trying to make I'm not sure that I agree. Several of the EU states, until very recently, were as intrusive when it comes to matters of security as the US is/has been. It would not surprise me at all if one or more of these states have had similar programs in place for some time with varying degrees of privacy protection in place.

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If privacy is an issue your not safe unless you go off the grid completely which is almost impossible. It's expensive as well as inconvenient to go off the grid for privacy reasons. You would have to get a burner phones and switch them out and be careful which sim cards you are using. You would have to stop using email entirely. Along with a myriad of other things people are so paranoid the government doesn't care about you unless you are a legitimate threat to the nation or others. This leak should not be a surprise to anyone this has been going forever.

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Originally Posted by blackph0enix View Post
Along with a myriad of other things people are so paranoid the government doesn't care about you unless you are a legitimate threat to the nation or others.
I might be more inclined to agree with this except for the fact that it is too dependent upon who gets to decide what a "legitimate threat". A quick look at American history shows that the definition of Legitimate threat has been a bit too dependent upon who is doing the defining.

BTW Just in case someone thinks I am directing this at a particular particular political party, ideology, or individual I'm not. This crosses party lines.

Here's just a partial list of people who have at various times been identified as a threat. While some individuals in these groups may have been violent/a threat that certainly isn't true for all of the subgroups. I have confined it to US history.

Japanese Americans during World War 2
Civil Rights activists
Anti War activists

Gathering of the information is only half the issue. The bigger question is always who has access to the information and what happens when that information is leaked to individuals with no right to that data.

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Many of you will have recently heard about The Guardian's revelations about the activities of the security services in the United States following the comments made by a whistleblower.
Let's set the record straight. The person who divulged that information is not a whistleblower, he's a traitor. A true whistleblower would have gone to the proper authorities with it and not to a country who is hostile to the US. I personally hope he is extradited and brought to justice here in the US for violating his oath of secrecy and the Espionage Act. However, I doubt the Chinese are going to cooperate and turn him over to us, at least until they've squeezed out the last drop of information from him.

Also, the first duty of government is to protect its citizens. And if I have to give up some privacy in order to avoid another 911 attack, then so be it.
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This is an incredibly complex issue in my opinion, and an incredibly simple one as well.

Bottom line: to live together as a society and reap the benefits of that society requires a partial surrendering (compromise) of individual rights.

If I want roads, police protection, schools etc I have to give some of my income to foot the bill. If I'm not willing to pay the price I should move off by myself and live in the woods alone. Similarly, if I want to be defended against foreign assailants I need to support the common defense infra-structure.

How much and what of my individual rights I am willing to surrender is a personal choice and should result from a cost benefit analysis, instead of a knee-jerk response. If I don't like the cost I take my marbles and go elsewhere.

Almost no one wants to be spied upon, but my observation is many of those that complain the loudest are also the first to point fingers when our security folks fail to catch bad guys before they act.

And, FWIW, I have to agree with Razor edge if I'm not involved in hanky-pinky why would I care if the NSA as a record of who I talk to?

I've always wanted to be smart, handsome and modest. But, I guess I'll have to be satisfied with two out of three . . .
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Originally Posted by ursus262 View Post
The operation of these security states is governed by an overarching EU Directive which guarantees citizens' privacy.
So do a variety of statutes in the US.

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Originally Posted by RavingMac View Post
And, FWIW, I have to agree with Razor edge if I'm not involved in hanky-pinky why would I care if the NSA as a record of who I talk to?
That's faulty logic though. This assumes that only things that are bad are worthy of security. In other words, this assumes that if something isn't wrong, embarrassing or bad, there's no concern over privacy. In that case, why not send along your credit card number or post it online? That's not "hanky-panky" (haha) but I imagine that you'd like to keep that private just as you might your medical records and other important family matters. None of that is bad but I imagine that you'd expect high levels of privacy with respect to those.

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Stanley

 
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It does not matter if YOU are not doing "something wrong". You may not even realize you lost that election, job or job promotion, contract, or significant other to SpyNet™. It is used to manipulate people. And then your own options narrow, whether you did "something wrong" or not. If H had this data stuff there would be no Js left in the world now.
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