Web Tools to Blur Your Digital Footprint
BY Em Maier
The NSA won't stop snooping on you, but you can throw them off your trail. Here are some tools to help you go private.
Revelations of NSA surveillance have shaken the nation, but while many of us would love nothing more than to toss our phones out the window and avoid well-trafficked search engines like Yahoo and Google altogether, the government seems intent snopping on Americans whether they like it or not.
Sometimes that's not a bad thing--but often it is. As privacy attorney Sarah Downey writes, one of three things can happen when your data falls into a corporation's lap: Your privacy may be breached like the customers of LivingSocial; the company might use it in a way that makes you uncomfortable and/or violates your privacy; or the government may use it, courtesy of the NSA and PRISM.
To help you sleep better at night, here's a roundup of tools that can help you go private.
TextSecure is an open source app that encrypts text so that no one can read it. Just keep in mind both the sender and respondent must use it in order for it to work. Also, while the content will be secure, your messages' destination will not. As a bonus, the app can encrypt old messages.
Designed by the makers of TextSecure, WhisperSystems, RedPhone features end-to-end encryption for calls, meaning no one can decipher your chat from beginning to end. RedPhone also forgoes assigning private numbers, so you can stick with the one you know and love. Calls can be placed via Wi-Fi or your mobile data plan.
Using Tor, a free software and open network that blocks out surveillance, Onion encrypts web traffic, so no one can pinpoint your IP address. The browser also hides what platform you're on, be it tablet, cell phone, or desktop.
SilentCircle keeps companies from accessing unencrypted calls, messages, and emails. Though it's open-source, its code is audited to prevent back doors or loopholes. You can use it on Android or iOS platforms.
Similar to Snapchat, this one-year-old app offers "military-grade encryption" of texts, pictures, and audio messages using a key that's unknown to the company. Wickr promises not to collect personal information, call logs, or location data. Its messages also self-destruct.
For those not on Tor, there's Onion Pi. Combining Raspberry Pi's microcomputer, USB Wi-Fi adapter, and an ethernet Cable, Onion Pi creates a small, potable private access point that directs traffic through Tor's larger network.
Like many others on this list, OTR offers end-to-end encryption. Since it's an extension to regular networks, users will need to download supporting software such as Adium for iOS and Pidgin for Windows.