With the revelation that millions of citizens and non-citizens have had their data compromised by PRISM, what can you do to keep your private data safe?
Sadly, very little -- but there are a few things you can use that will keep things at least a little locked down.
The key reason PRISM exists is to create connections between networked users. For example, it uses "metadata" to connect you with other people. If you often call a certain number, that number gets a larger weight in the system and can allow analysts to understand what you're doing, at least online or over the phone. It's obviously pretty creepy.
You can simulate how it works using Immersion, which connects to your Gmail account and assesses your network using only very basic data. It's a cool way to see who you email the most and who you may be connected to. It also gives you a view into how systems like PRISM "think" about connections. You may show a lot of correspondence with, say, a contractor that is not personal but more professional. However, a PRISM system would see it as a potential link.
Now, on to some tools you can use to help you keep your privacy intact. To be clear, these tools are not for everyone, but they are useful if you're traveling and want to ensure your conversations aren't picked up (a lot of executives use tools like these in countries where cybercrime is high) -- or even if you're just looking to keep your browser history private.
First, consider using Firefox as your browser. It is a completely open source and as usable as any other browser out there. It doesn't have the sync features of Chrome or Apple, but the data of those sync features can identify you and the people you connect with.
If you want completely secure searching, try a service like DuckDuckGo. Again, not many bells and whistles, but plenty of privacy.
Want to send secure text messages? Try an app like ChatSecure. Only you and the recipient can read the messages and, without a password, no one can browse your messages when you're not looking.
Finally, you may want to encrypt your email. You can use a program like GPGMail to completely encrypt all messages you send to a loved one or friend -- and that person will have to use the same program on their end. If you use webmail apps like Gmail (which you shouldn't if you're worried about privacy), you can use an app like Mailvelope.
As for Facebook privacy? Well you're out of luck. Facebook is probably the biggest repository of private information after the NSA and the only way to opt out is to delete your account. It's sad but true: a lot of the privacy invasions we suffer we've brought on ourselves.
There is an exhaustive list of apps that will help you stay private online. Remember: just because you have nothing to hide doesn't mean you don't deserve privacy. Electronic communications are all but public -- never chat or email about anything you wouldn't want shouted in a crowded room -- but sometimes you obviously want to ensure no else is listening in.
Are you worried about your online and phone privacy after the NSA leak or don't you care? Have you done anything about it?
Image via Jorge Franganillo/Flickr