Tips on the software you can use to avoid being tracked as you surf
By Abdullah Al-wali on November 27th 2014
Internet surveillance has become a topic of mass discussion and scrutiny. From the whistle blowing of NSA's Ed Snowden to iCloud's celebrity photo hacking f*ck up, the lack of privacy in the digital domain is alarming.
We naively sign our rights away in exchange for a free mailbox or cloud storage. But is this convenience really worth our compliance with such a privacy breach?
Internet users across the globe have their digital footprints tracked by search engines like Google, which uses our data to re-market products and services back to us, facilitated by organisations like Radium 1, which has the very creepy slogan - 'we know your next customer'.
The freedom of the internet once promised to us is now swamped with advertising and surveillance. To avoid it people in the real world dug deeper to form Darknet We often hear about the deep dark criminal side of Darknet, but that's not what it's all about. More recently we've seen musicians and artists, like Aphex Twin and Holly Herdon, make use of the Darknet as an artistic outlet, while raising awareness of the privacy issue, and thus, promoting its good side too.
Other artists are giving a nod to the privacy issue too. One example is the landing page of Jam Citys' website to promote the track 'Unhappy', a tongue in cheek reference to the daily annoyances of internet pop-ups and spam.
With all that confusing stuff in mind we thought it'd be a good idea to give some tips on the software you can use to avoid being tracked as you surf.
1) Browser: Firefox
It makes sense to start with the browser, it's your portal to the internet. Firefox is one you might already use, but maybe you didn't realise that it was developed with privacy in mind. Yes, Google's Chrome may be convenient, but it does automatically track you (you can avoid that to some extent but they don't make it very easy), so if you're not quite ready for Tor why not explore Firefox along with its option to turn on the 'do not track' feature.
2) Search Engine: Duck Duck Go
Once you're online your search engine is your best friend. Google (again) is most people's first port of call. In fact nowadays it seems like the world's favorite piece of internet advice is to 'just Google it'. But using Chrome to search is a bit like asking a friend to do your homework in return for information about your every move. What kind of sketchy friend gives a helping hand in return for your permission to be stalked?
Instead try Duck Duck go, a search engine that doesn't track you. You'll have to sacrifice the very useful image search tab, but if you want to be in control of your experience try setting a search engine like Duck Duck Go as your homepage.
3) E-mail Mailbox: Shazzle Mail
Of all internet 'security surveillance', the idea of having your e-mails scanned is one that creeps us out the most. But there are quite a few e-mail alternatives to the very convenient ones. The email is a tough sell, because you're already established with your existing accounts, and Shazzle Mail isn't ideal as you need to own an Android or Apple phone to download the app. But we'd like this kind of email to catch on and become the norm. We don't claim that Shazzle Mail is the only option worth exploring, but they have a free account as well as paid one, so it's a good starting point to try out.
4) File Sharing: Mega
Following on from the crackdown on illegal file sharing on Megaupload, German entrepreneur Kim Dotcom set up Mega - file sharing that is encrypted and decrypted by your client devices and never by the company itself. They offer 50 GB for free so it's another good starting point although there are other alternatives.
5) Future Cyborgs: Cyborg Unplug
A device that's forward thinking and will protect you from the forthcoming big data breaches that will allow users of 'wearable' technologies to be tracked via the corporations' new products i.e. Glass, Autographer or Memoto . The aim of this movement is to stop a future in which privacy is impossible and where the 'iron cage of surveillance, calculation and control pervades every aspect of life'. Cyborg Unplug detects and kicks surveillance devices from wireless networks. It's simple and legal. Check out their website, and in particular their blog post 'The snitch on your wrist' for more info. It's not available just yet but you can pre-order.
If you want to learn more about online privacy, we recommend the documentaries: We Are Legion, Terms and Conditions May Apply, and the new release Citizen Four, amongst others. Let's hope that one day the majority value their privacy over convenience.