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You’re Being Spied On, and Your Emails Are Probably Being Read Too! (Win a VPN Below)

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Whether we realize it or not, most aspects of daily life depend on the internet. When you put an appointment in your calendar app, you’re giving up information that can be used to track you. When you read the news on your phone or computer, you’re being tracked. When you use Google, you’re being tracked. And as we all know, Facebook is tracking everything we do. The worst part is that these companies are sharing your information with countless other companies, so many it’s impossible to keep track.

The Threat

While surfing the web, you are likely exposed to hundreds of different trackers per web site visited. Companies don’t just disgard your private information, they harvest it into databases. Sometimes these databases are synchronize to create even more powerful tracking systems. And that’s without taking into account the fact that while you’re persistently connected to the internet, your service provider can (and does) log every site you visit, every email you send, and anything unencrypted that you post.

Your Rights

Everyone has a right to privacy, and that right must be defended. Governments have failed to protect the public, and are usually responsible for even worse tracking themselves. When you visit a web site, you’re consent to their privacy policy is implied. These privacy policies are never in plain English, and most lawyers have trouble understanding what’s written. We’re going to outline a few tools to consider, starting with your first line of defense: a good VPN.

VPN Services

They are your first line of defense against ISP level, as well as government tracking. Never trust a free VPN, and remember that an untrustworthy VPN is worse than none at all. Disguising your location will prevent IP address based tracking, as well as enable the circumvention of censorship and site blocking.

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Secure Email

Email is not the digital equivalent of postal mail delivered in a sealed envelope. It is actually the digital equivalent of a post card. The difference? In a sealed envelope, the message is not visible, any provider that touches that post card in transit will likely keep a copy of its contents.

  • ProtonMail: Founded by scientists at the CERN nuclear research facility in Switzerland. ProtonMail to ProtonMail emails are encrypted in transit, but unencrypted emails to outside providers will still be subject to logging on the receiver’s end.
  • Tutanota: Based in Germany, their source code is entirely open source, which is a good thing. Tutanota to Tutanota emails are encrypted in transit, but unencrypted emails to outside providers will still be subject to logging on the receiver’s end.

Web Browsers

Chrome is basically spyware disguised as a web browser. Microsoft Internet Explorer is a nightmare. Safari is okay, but not fantastic at protecting your privacy unless you’re in Private mode.

Phone & Text

If you’re using an iPhone, iMessage and Facetime are encrypted, so nobody can eavesdrop on those. For the rest of you, all your SMS messages are likely kept in raw logs by your phone provider, and intercepting your phone calls is basically child’s play.

  • Signal: Edward Snowden’s talk and text privacy app of choice, strong encryption and great voice quality.
  • Telegram: Created by the founder of VK, popular Russian social network. Very popular for group chats!
  • WhatsApp: WhatsApp provides encrypted calling and text, but it’s been acquired by Facebook so some might avoid.

Internet Security

Cover your webcam with tape, and keep your system clean and updated. Malware can read your files, record you through your webcam, and then blackmail you for payment in Bitcoin – it’s that bad.

  • Kaspersky: When it comes to security, the Russians don’t mess around.
  • Norton: Fantastic all around option from an American name.
  • McAfee: Another great cybersecurity choice, owned by Intel.

Smart Homes

The “smarter” you think your home is, the stupider it is in reality. Not only are smart home products consistent tracking devices, but their persistent connectivity could result in a situation where you’re being watched and listened to. Amazon Alexa, Google Home, resist the urge.

Passwords

Don’t use the same password for some car forum as you use for online banking! While it may be hard to remember more than one password, getting defrauded is significantly worse. At least try to use a variety of passwords, based on your level of trust in a site.

Mobile Phones

These are basically portable tracking devices, your service provider has the ability to retroactively trace your every footstep as far back in time as they wish. Prepaid SIM cards are the only way to get around this, just be sure not to register with any identifying information.

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Good luck! If you stick to the recommendations above, you shouldn’t have a problem warding off most invasions of your privacy. Next time you see a form asking for your personal information, ask yourself whether they really need you to give your true details. And never forget that convenience is the enemy of privacy.
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