The UK’s Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Tony Porter, recently said that the general public underestimates how much they are being watched by the government and major corporations.
In an interview with TheGuardian, Porter said CCTV technology is at a point where it can now use algorithms to predict behavior, while staff at universities, nightclubs and even supermarkets are carrying audio and video devices that record citizens going about their everyday lives.
As usual, that same populace’s safety is the primary argument in favour of the increased surveillance. And, unfortunately, there are few options when it comes to combating what feels like an ever brightening, invasive torch of surveillance on Britain’s streets. The recent Charlie Hebdo tragedy will probably see it brighten further.
However, when it comes to the internet, a medium where privacy is at the forefront of topical discussion, there are far more options when it comes to protecting yourself from unwanted eyes.
These facts, startlingly, contradict a public rhetoric that focuses acutely on internet privacy while almost ignoring surveillance in the real world. The question of where many of us live our ‘real’ lives is depressingly answered when the above sentence is accepted as true. And it is.
There is no doubt that government officials such as Tony Porter, who can be contacted directly on twitter here, should be made aware of the public’s distaste for such wholesale survaillance.
In the meantime, though, here are 3 things to help make the waters of the internet a little less choppy.
Unfortunately, changing your status to “Better safe than sorry…’ Or ‘I herby declare…’ is only useful in making you look stupid.
Facebook does not own your photographs but it does have the right to use them in any way it sees fit. You signed up to that when you agreed to the terms and conditions. Basically Facebook has moved into your house, and, unless you ask it to leave, it’s going to help itself to the fridge and sleep in your bed. All lodgers need guidelines, though, so it’s important to set some out unless you plan on deleting your account and moving house.
There is a pretty good guide here that will help you make sure Facebook behaves while it stays over. The main reason this is important is because much of the stuff you don’t necessarily want the social media giant to do is the default option, such as linking your Likes to personal advertisements. So you need to go in and change it.
Finally, it is also worth noting that the use of photographs should be fairly low on the list of priorities for Facebook users.
A completely public profile is the perfect source of treasure for criminal miners looking to steal identities. Protecting yourself from that is a good idea.
If you share files with friends or colleagues on dropbox then the government is allowed to collect all of that without a warrant, according to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Now this might not really be that important if you tow the party line pretty well. However, if you happen to have a few naked pics or something else you don’t necessarily want the world to see then remember that Dropbox is not private and you are essentially sharing any information on it with the government and other hackers.
Snowden recommends Spideroak as a good alternative because, unlike Dropbox, they do not give themselves access to customer data.
Tor is the easiest way to make your internet surfing anonymous to advertisers, ISPs and the websites you are visiting. For example, it eliminates David Cameron’s firewall that blocks file sharing and other ‘useful’ websites from UK users. It also gets around the Netflix country codes, which means you can watch Mad Men before it comes out in the UK.
That being said, Tor will allow you to visit the recently banned TV show sharing websites like Project Free TV and Watch-Series anyway.
It does this by encrypting a users website traffic by squashing it through different server nodes around the world. Like running through a few hundred blankets, nobody can see you by the end.
Editor’s Note: Whatsapp on Android will soon encrypt all of its messages as the default option, with an Apple update also on the way. As usual, though, no word on Windows phone getting the same treatment.
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