No Surveillance State Month, Part 19: Use Friendly Web Services

I think that Google gives great search results, but it bothers me how much data they collect. Many people host their e-mail with Gmail, get directions with Google Maps, sync their contacts with Google, store credit cards in Google Wallet, and so much more. All this data is connected to PRISM and delivers such a complete profile of you that phone records may seem insignificant.

Just as a rich person would never store all his or her assets in one bank, a Web user should never place all their data in one place. Even beyond making it more difficult for government pwnage (a technical term for “taking over”), if your Google account is hacked, you’re screwed. Just don’t do it.

Instead, one way you can take a bit of your privacy back is by using search engines that don’t keep long historical records of what you’ve searched for to “personalize” your search. Frankly, I don’t want my search personalized anyway: I want to find new things, not things that meet some profile created by a bunch of programmers. One popular search engine among the privacy-conscious is Duck Duck Go, a search engine that promises not to log your data.

Sometimes, I find it necessary to use Google because I do believe their search is an awesome product. When I do, I use the “private browsing” mode of my Web broweser, accessed by pressing Ctrl+Shift+P on most major browsers. This mode disallows access to the cookies stored on your computer, making it difficult for a Web site to correlate the current person searching to their previous search records. It also ensures you start logged out of Google, so your search history isn’t logged in a named account either.

This is one of a 30-part series, “No Surveillance State Month,” where daily for the month of June I’ll be posting ways to avoid invasion of your privacy in the digital age. The intent of these posts is not to enable one to escape detection while engaging in criminal activity — there’s still the old-fashioned “send a detective to watch you” for which these posts will not help. Rather, this series will help you to opt-out of the en masse collection of data by the government and large corporations that places Americans in databases without their knowing and freely-given consent for indefinite time periods. We all have the right to privacy, and I hope you demand it.

2 thoughts on “No Surveillance State Month, Part 19: Use Friendly Web Services

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  1. “Support the NSA petition”

    Dear General Alexander and Secretary Hagel:

    The undersigned individuals and organizations, concerned about the rule of law and the protection of Constitutional freedoms, hereby petition the National Security Agency to conduct a public rulemaking on the agency’s monitoring and collection of communications traffic within the United States. 5 U.S.C. § 553(e).

    We believe that the NSA’s collection of domestic communications contravenes the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and violates several federal privacy laws, including the Privacy Act of 1974, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 as amended.

    The NSA’s collection of solely domestic communications, which has been acknowledged by the President, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also constitutes a legislative rule that “substantively affects the public to a degree sufficient to implicate the policy interests animating notice-and-comment rulemaking” under the Administrative Procedure Act. EPIC v. DHS, 653 F.3d 1, 6 (D.C. Cir. 2011). Accordingly, the NSA’s collection of domestic communications, absent the opportunity for public comment, is unlawful.

    We hereby petition the National Security Agency, a component of the Department of Defense, for relief. We ask the NSA to immediately suspend collection of solely domestic communications pending the completion of a public rulemaking as required by law.

    We intend to renew our request each week until we receive your response.


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