Protecting your Digital Privacy

U.S. law enforcement officials and politicians have been vocal about wanting more access to U.S. residents’ phones, social media, email, and other private digital communications and information. Fourth Amendment rights are being undermined when it comes to our private digital information, and our new Supreme Leader, The Orange One, has been very clear about his intentions to expand government surveillance even farther.

However, digital communication and social media are essential tools in resisting a modern fascist regime. So, we need to beef up our digital security. Here are some steps to take to help protect yourself:

  • To a large degree, you’re in control of what personal information you disseminate. Be smart about what personal/private information you share, who you share it with, and how you share it. Some basic things you can do are:
    1. Give out as little personal information to as few people as possible. Don’t hand out your phone number, address, or email to just anyone. Don’t offer additional information to law enforcement, government officials, banks, employers, websites like Google or Facebook, or private companies you do business with. If someone does not ask for it, don’t give it. And avoid revealing personal details about yourself, like your sexuality, your political affiliations, ethnic/national background, etc., when you are at work or otherwise outside your trusted group of family and friends.
    2. Keep your social media privacy settings tight. Don’t automatically set all of your Facebook posts to public, don’t use your last name in your Twitter handle, that sort of thing. There’s no need to make it easy for people to Google you and see what you’re up to.
    3. Don’t post online about protests or rallies you plan on attending. Tell family and friends privately about your plans instead, or use encrypted communication to communicate with other protest-goers.
    4. Don’t advertise where exactly you live or work. If you live or work in a smaller suberb of a large city, just say your live/work in that city.
  • White People: Be mindful what you say online or in public. The NSA and other surveillance programs use computer programs to comb for suspicious words and phrases. If something you say ends up being flagged and investigated further, not only will you be monitored by the government, so will your friends and family.  So, if you make a joke about doing some sort of harm to a certain tiny-handed individual, you might just bring attention to your non-white family and friends. And while your own white privilege will likely protect you, the same cannot be said  for your non-white family and friends. Please keep this in mind.
  • Phone (including texting) and email communication is not automatically secure. If you want to tighten up your phone and email security, you’ll want end-to-end encrypted communication. This means that only the sender and receiver will be able to see the un-encrypted message, and the email or phone company can only see the encrypted version as it is transmitted through their systems.
    Two apps to use for end-to-end encrypted phone communication are WhatsApp and Signal.
    And for email, Tutanota and ProtonMail are good choices. Both use end-to-end encryption and they are based in Germany and Switzerland, respectively, both of which have good privacy laws. Please be aware, however, that if you send an email to to someone not using an end-to-end encrypted email provider that email is no longer secure.
  • It’s also important to avoid being tracked, both online and in person. Keep your GPS on your phone turned off, and turn off the location history so Google, Safari, or whatever browser you use cannot learn or transmit your daily activities.
    There are several things you can do to avoid be tracked online. One, install a browser extension that blocks websites from tracking your visits (some options are uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger). Two, prevent others from knowing your internet search history by using browsers like DuckDuckGo. Unlike Chrome, FireFox, or Safari, this browser doesn’t record your searches; it also works well with Google. And three, consider encrypting all of your online activity by setting up virtual private network (VPN).

Most of these tips are from Timothy Summers’ article, “Protect your privacy during Trump’s Reign: A hacker’s guide to being cyber-safe,” published on Salon.com on December, 11, 2016. Click the link above (on the article’s title) to read all of his advice.

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