Who are the NSA?
The National Security Agency (NSA) is a powerful United States intelligence organization. Basically, they are responsible for collecting, processing, and monitoring global data for intelligence purposes. The NSA has a stated role to advance national security while protecting the freedoms, civil liberties, and privacy rights guaranteed by the Constitution and federal law.
What is the issue?
Many studies, cases, and documents show that the US government is spying on American citizens using online NSA surveillance. As Americans, this invades our Freedom of Speech and our Right to Privacy. The ACLU has called this activity “unconstitutional surveillance of Americans’ communications”.
An internal NSA audit from 2012 revealed they committed 2,776 incidents of unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign targets in the US over a one-year period.
On May 20, 2013, Edward Snowden released files from the NSA which described, as he put it, “systematic surveillance of innocent citizens.” Based on Snowden’s documents, the NSA has at least nine major tech companies gathering data on selected surveillance targets. This revelation caused online privacy concerns to increase dramatically in the US.
Then on Dec 24, 2014, a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the ACLU revealed NSA documents from 2001 to 2013. Overall, these documents showed that there were instances of unauthorized surveillance of US organizations, spouses or love interests, and more American citizens.
What is a Digital Pat Down?
The inner workings of an intelligence machine like the NSA can be difficult to grasp. From leaked documents so far, we can surmise that the NSA is performing secret “digital pat downs” on American citizens somewhat regularly. This happens without our knowledge or consent.
First, an NSA analyst identifies a target and submits a request to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit. Next, dedicated employees at various tech companies receive the request and gather the requisite data. This may include emails, chat logs, and videos. Once the data is compiled, it is sent back to the FBI for analysis.
The National Security Agency is also piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using “cookies” and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance. We’ve talked in detail about mobile phone tracking tools previously.
They are also collecting location data transmitted by mobile apps. An NSA program, code-named HAPPYFOOT, helps the NSA to map Internet addresses to physical locations more precisely than is possible with traditional Internet geolocation services.
How do Americans feel?
PEW research shows what Americans think about online privacy and the NSA.
Overall, 54% of Americans disapprove of the US Government collecting telephone and Internet data for anti-terrorism efforts.
74% said they should not give up their privacy and freedom for the sake of safety.
93% think it is important to control who can get their information.
CISPA had alarmed the privacy community by giving companies the ability to share cyber security information with federal agencies, including the NSA, “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” That means CISPA’s information-sharing channel, created for responding quickly to hacks and breaches, could also provide a loophole in privacy laws that would enable warrant-less intelligence and surveillance. The information they gather, including all hacked data and any incidental information swept up in the process, would be added to a massive database. The FBI, CIA, and NSA would then be free to query this data at their leisure.
This is how CISPA would create a huge expansion of the “backdoor” search capabilities that the government uses to skirt the 4th Amendment and spy on Internet users without warrants and with virtually no oversight.
How to prevent being spied on by the NSA and other data collectors without going off the grid
It may be impossible to completely prevent the NSA from spying on you, but you can try and make it much harder.
- Avoid popular Online Consumer services – These include Google, Facebook, and DropBox.
- An alternative to DropBox is SpiderOak.
- A common alternatives to Google is DuckDuckGo.
- Mashable has published a list of private social networks to help you avoid the Facebook plague.
- Encrypt your hard drive – You may have password protection on your files but you should go a whole step further and encrypt the entire hard drive.
- Avoid online tracking – On you browser you can use the do-not-track setting but you can go a step farther and use a plugin to stop tracking. Some reputable plugins for this include:
- Encrypt your email and chat messages – Encrypt your messages before you send them. Some common email clients with encryption include:
- Microsoft Outlook – This has encyption options if you want to use them.
- Runbox (a Norwegian secure email client) – Claims to be unreachable by the NSA.
- HushMail – Not as popular but is completely encypted.
If you chat on the Internet, you can encypt those messages too.
- ChatCrypt – Encrypts the message when it sends and can only be read by the end user, also known as end-to-end encryption.
If you use common instant messaging through Google, AOL, Yahoo or Microsoft you can use a chat extension called OTR (Off the record) which enables end-to-end encryption.
- Use TOR for online browsing – TOR stands for The Onion Router. Like an onion, it layers multiple levels of security. Basically, it bounces communication around a network of relays which makes it very difficult to track.
Online Privacy in Europe
A recent draft of the British Investigatory Powers Bill will require companies to store information for up to a year. Communications companies would hold details of which websites and apps a person uses.
Recently, the European Union has decided to invalidate the current voluntary safe harbor because they believe the US cannot adequately protect its privacy. There have been reports that European companies are transferring data out of US territory for safe keeping.
EU-US Privacy Shield
The US Government released full text of the new European Union-US Privacy Shield on Feb 29. This is not yet law.
Citizen complaints – The new agreement gives companies and citizens the chance to complain and dispute any mishandling of records and personal information.
Targeted spying – This will now be limited to: detect and counter threats from espionage, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, threats to the armed forces, or transnational criminal threats.
The proposed framework includes the following features:
- Companies must provide greater transparency with respect to their data collection, use, and sharing practices through more robust and detailed privacy policies
- If a company handles human resource (employee) data, it must agree to cooperate and comply with EU Data Protection Authorities (DPAs)
- Companies transferring personal data to third-party service providers remain fully responsible for the proper handling of personal data; must conduct appropriate due diligence concerning its service provider; and must properly monitor and re-mediate any deficiencies of its service providers relating to the handling of personal data
Subscribe To Our E-Newsletter
The Great Phishing Scamdemic
Have you been noticing an abundance of suspicious looking emails flooding y…
Serious Risks to Consider When Socializing Distantly
In today’s crazy world of staying home instead of visiting friends, we’ve a…
Ten Tips on How to be Successful While Working From Home Dur
As a web developer of over 15 years, I’ve spent a lot of time working remot…
- Facebook Password Reset Scam!
- There’s an App for Labor Organization
- Do I Need Alignable?
- Why Is It Important To Know Who Owns Your Representative? One Example: Glass-Steagall
- What’s a Twitter Storm?
- Ways to Move Up in Search Engine Results
- Common Email Scams to Lookout For
- Social Media Copyright Issues: Fair Use or Infringement?
- Cat Tech Tips: Cleaning the Computer
- Chinese Government Holds Back Everyone’s Internet Freedom: A strong example of the problems this world... Chinese Government Holds Back Everyone’s Internet Freedom: A strong example of the problems this world faces with cyber censorship is what is going on in China. The government blocks many websites, searches, and software based on their content.
- EU-US Privacy Shield Still Not Protecting Your Privacy: Still collecting bulk data, problems with the... EU-US Privacy Shield Still Not Protecting Your Privacy: Still collecting bulk data, problems with the judicial redress act, and no true protection for businesses
- Copyright and Social Media: This has become a gray area. Almost everyone is guilty of... Copyright and Social Media: This has become a gray area. Almost everyone is guilty of sharing something on social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, that was copyrighted and not yours to share. But what is fair to ...
- How Your Devices are Tracking you and How to Stop it: Apple, Microsoft, and Android How Your Devices are Tracking you and How to Stop it: Apple, Microsoft, and Android
- Being Safe while Downloading Apps: With how many apps are downloaded it is always a... Being Safe while Downloading Apps: With how many apps are downloaded it is always a good idea to stay safe while downloading. You must take precautions, learn where to download, and do your research.
- Why Labor Unions Need Member Data System: Many large organizations – specifically labor unions –... Why Labor Unions Need Member Data System: Many large organizations – specifically labor unions – struggle trying to keep their member data updated and accessible. Without a centralized database, the most up-to-date vital pieces of information often find their way ...
- Is Your Phone Keeping You up at Night? Our electronics tend to distract us from... Is Your Phone Keeping You up at Night? Our electronics tend to distract us from going to bed, disrupt our sleep with constant sounds, and hurt our health with their blue light.
- All About Browsers: With so many browsers out there including: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera,... All About Browsers: With so many browsers out there including: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Safari, you may have a hard time choosing one. While all of them have their ups and downs you can choose one that will ...
- Mobile Sub-Site versus Responsive Web Design: In 2016, if your website is not mobile ready... Mobile Sub-Site versus Responsive Web Design: In 2016, if your website is not mobile ready you need to change that today. Two main ways to make your site mobile is to either have a mobile sub-site or a responsive web ...
- Do Not Track: Two members of congress filed a bill called the ‘Do Not Track... Do Not Track: Two members of congress filed a bill called the ‘Do Not Track Online Act of 2015’
- Website Tips for 2016: -Fresh Up to Date Modern Websites -Easy Navigation is Key -Website... Website Tips for 2016: -Fresh Up to Date Modern Websites -Easy Navigation is Key -Website Usability -Improve Your SEO -Social Media
- Where Technology and Christmas Come Together: Check out some of the ways you can enjoy... Where Technology and Christmas Come Together: Check out some of the ways you can enjoy the Christmas festive technology and how you can share some yourself.
- How to Stay Safe While Holiday Online Shopping: Learn where to shop online, how to... How to Stay Safe While Holiday Online Shopping: Learn where to shop online, how to be secure, and best practices to keep yourself safe.
- Newsletters in the Digital Age! In a digital age sending out electronic newsletters instead of... Newsletters in the Digital Age! In a digital age sending out electronic newsletters instead of paper newsletters has become much more popular. While deciding to do your newsletter does have its downsides the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
- Safe Harbor Ruled Invalid, How it Affects You: The European Union and the Unites States... Safe Harbor Ruled Invalid, How it Affects You: The European Union and the Unites States will be meeting on December 17th to create a new agreement for the Safe Harbor. They plan to conclude this agreement in January 2016.
- The Internet Helps in a Crisis: Everyone has heard about the recent Paris Attacks on... The Internet Helps in a Crisis: Everyone has heard about the recent Paris Attacks on November 13th many dead, wounded, or stranded. Many companies have made use of the Internet in a time of crisis to help those whom need ...
- Advertising Online for your Business: Advertising your business online can boost your sales and website... Advertising Online for your Business: Advertising your business online can boost your sales and website traffic if done the correct way. There are many different ways and places to advertise online
- Using Analytics for Your Business: Analytics is data analysis that usual involves taking past data... Using Analytics for Your Business: Analytics is data analysis that usual involves taking past data to find trends and effects or decisions or events. It can also compare old data with new data using a given tool or scenario.
- The NSA and Online Privacy: Many studies, cases, and documents show that the NSA is... The NSA and Online Privacy: Many studies, cases, and documents show that the NSA is spying on American citizens using online surveillance. As an American, this invades our Freedom of Speech and our Right to Privacy proving the NSA’s “Unconstitutional ...
- Learn About Scam Emails: Scam emails are a very popular and while most email services... Learn About Scam Emails: Scam emails are a very popular and while most email services have a spam sorting feature built in, not all will be sorted properly. Scams can look like they came from a friend, a business you ...
- Google Event, the Good and Bad: Google held their press event on Tuesday, September 19th... Google Event, the Good and Bad: Google held their press event on Tuesday, September 19th in San Francisco announcing many new products such as the Nexus 6P and 5X, the new Chromecast 2, Chromecast Audio, and the Pixel C. They ...
- Prevent Malware on your Smartphone: Different malware includes adware, bug, spyware, Trojan horse, virus, and... Prevent Malware on your Smartphone: Different malware includes adware, bug, spyware, Trojan horse, virus, and many more (Learn more about Malware types ) There are some signs that your phone is being attacked and many ways to prevent these attacks ...