<![CDATA[Your Independent Future - How You Can Protect Your Privacy]]>Sun, 14 Jan 2018 15:11:50 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Why You Should Care That The Government is Invading Your Privacy]]>Mon, 06 Jun 2016 01:47:50 GMThttp://yourindependentfuture.com/how-you-can-protect-your-privacy/why-you-should-care-that-the-government-is-invading-your-privacyGiven our history, African Americans should be the leading voices in support of legislation that protects the right to privacy

Tuesday the Senate voted on the USA Freedom Act, legislation designed to give Americans more privacy from the federal government. The bill was a specific attempt to stop the government from collecting phone records, a process that was revealed last year by Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who released classified documents outlining the authorization for such collection. However, the bill failed to receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. So the bulk collection of American phone and online communication will continue.

Though not explicitly stated in the Constitution, privacy is a fundamental right held by all Americans. As such, black Americans should welcome measures that seek to guard civil liberties and reduce privacy violations. Although it is difficult for many blacks to get worked up over a small policy shift regarding a right they have never truly enjoyed, the right to privacy is too important to be cast aside.

Privacy infringements are usually the harbinger of additional civil rights violations. When we cede the right to privacy, or even remain silent when given a diminished version of it, we declare to the nation that blacks are OK with being less equal. This has a negative impact on every facet of people’s lives. Blacks, perhaps more than any other demographic, should be the leading voices in support of legislation like the USA Freedom Act and related data-security initiatives because our history has shown what happens when privacy protections are absent.

For black Americans, as an article last week by Yale University professor Beverly Gage reminds us, privacy has historically been more of a luxury than a right. Gage reveals the full text of a letter the FBI sent to Martin Luther King Jr. encouraging him to commit suicide. In the letter, the agency threatened to reveal personal information about King that was gleaned from the government’s extensive invasion of his privacy through wiretapping and the bugging of his hotel rooms.

The incident with King, frankly, isn’t all that surprising. The history of the black American experience has been fraught with a blatant disregard for a right to personhood, much less for any claims of citizenship and privacy. Privacy violations have spanned the entire black American journey, extending from slave rows to communities segregated by Jim Crow laws to neighborhoods policed by stop-and-frisk programs today. For centuries the surrendering of any notion of privacy was a condition of existence for much of black America.

As it turns out, since the Snowden disclosures, most Americans also see privacy violations as an issue, particularly with the spread of technology. According to a new study from the Pew Research Internet Project, 80 percent of Americans believe that we should be concerned about the government’s efforts to collect specific information from our online and phone communications. And 70 percent of Americans are worried that the government is accessing our social media information, such as our Facebook profiles, without our knowledge. Still, Internet, cellphone and social media usage continues to grow exponentially. Blacks have a higher rate of smartphone ownership and social media usage (especially Twitter) than whites.

Yet black Americans are not as concerned as the rest of the country about government surveillance. Compared with all other demographic groups, blacks are the most likely to believe that the government has collected their data and the least likely to feel violated by it. Further, blacks are the least likely to disapprove of the federal government’s collection of their phone and Internet data in the course of achieving national-security objectives. In other words, blacks believe that their privacy is invaded more than any other group does, and they have come to terms with it.  

It’s fair to surmise that the historical deprivation of privacy is the core rationale for our lack of surprise or offense when such violations are revealed. Furthermore, because African Americans perpetually suffer recession-level unemployment, exceptionally high poverty and incarceration rates, and relatively low health outcomes and household wealth, government collection of phone numbers is among the least of our concerns.
The nation is engaged in a conversation about the balance between privacy and security. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, security became a paramount concern for all Americans. But as time has passed, the country is looking to reclaim some of the liberty that was surrendered in the shadow of that traumatic event. The USA Freedom Act was the latest mechanism in an attempt to recalibrate the right to privacy with an expectation of protection by the government.

But for black Americans, privacy and security have almost always been out of balance and sometimes wholly absent. Although blacks would have benefited from the additional privacy and civil liberties protections contained in the bill, its passage would not have undone the impact resulting from the denial of privacy that has characterized the black American experience. Nevertheless, the right to privacy is fundamental to addressing injustices in other policy areas. As such, it must not be overlooked in the course of the struggle for equality.


<![CDATA[Protecting Your Privacy From Corporations, The Government and You]]>Sat, 21 May 2016 01:21:26 GMThttp://yourindependentfuture.com/how-you-can-protect-your-privacy/protecting-your-privacy-from-corporationsthe-government-and-youLarry Magid
Thanks in part to Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA snooping, privacy was a dominant theme in 2013 and will continue to be in 2014.
To me, there are three major sources of risk when it comes to privacy: corporations, government and yourself.

Corporations – including Internet and social networking companies – thrive on data. For some companies, it’s a matter of trying to gauge consumers’ interests and likely buying habits based on their searches, web visits and purchases. Knowing what a consumer cares about gives them the opportunity to target ads and offers. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on your perspective.  On the plus side, it means that the ads you see (and you are going to see ads in exchange for free content and service) might actually be more interesting than random messages. On the downside, it can feel invasive and creepy to know that you are being followed around the web. We like to think that we have a certain amount of privacy when we use our computers or mobile devices but we are increasingly reminded that someone – or at least some machine – is keeping track of what we do.

Governments also need data to do their work, especially when it comes to law enforcement and national security. There is no question that intelligence gathering is vital to protecting us against attack and solving crimes, but lately it seems as if the balance between protection and invasion of privacy has been off kilter. And in the information age, there is now an uneasy and sometimes involuntary connection when it comes to government and business because much of the information government gathers about us comes from what we willingly turn over to commercial enterprises like mobile phone companies, search engines, social networking sites and even places we shop on and offline. That’s because no matter how careful a company might be with its privacy and security policies, it must comply with legal requests from government to turn over customer data.  Information requests approved by the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance) Courts are an example of a government information requests that companies such as Google GOOG +0.06%, Facebook, Microsoft MSFT +0.61% and Apple AAPL +1.16%are required to respond to, even though it usually means turning over customer information without being able to disclose the nature of the requests to the customers involved or to the public.  Executives from these and other companies have called on the Obama administration to reform the process.

Individuals can also be the source of our own privacy leaks because of what we post and who can see it. It sometimes surprises me how often I see personal information widely shared on social networking sites. I’ve seen people post obviously personal messages on people’s Facebook wall, apparently oblivious that it  can be seen by anyone, I’ve seen people post pretty intimate photos that they might not really want to share with the public. And because of a lack of care with forwarding and copying I’ve seen a lot of personal information arrive via email that probably wasn’t meant for my eyes.
How to protect yourself from companies, government and yourself
When it comes to corporations, our best defense is transparency – knowing what they collect and when they collect it – and access to tools that allow us to control who has access to our web history and what we do online. That includes knowing how to use private browsing tools, knowing how to delete cookies, knowing how to turn off tracking when possible, knowing how to control information collected by mobile apps, and knowing when it’s best to log-out of services so that they can be used anonymously.

And it’s not just Internet companies. Every time we use our credit cards or loyalty cards, information is being collected about our buying habits.  Government can also play a role in helping protect consumer privacy by enforcing laws that require companies to be transparent and adhere to their own privacy policies. Some laws, however, can actually backfire on consumers by creating unintended consequences  such as sometimes requiring companies to collect even more data (such as requiring users to disclose their age along with their identity).
When it comes to governments, we need to be aware of what they are doing and active in demanding that they strive to protect our privacy and civil liberties while doing their job to protect our security and safety. There is, of course, a need for some secrecy when it comes to security, but it’s possible to balance that with the privacy rights of all citizens including the rights of those suspected of a crime.
Individuals can do our part by educating ourselves on how to use the privacy tools an settings of the services you use, how to determine what services might not be safe to use and remembering the simple fact that anything that’s digital can be copied, forwarded, hacked or leaked.


<![CDATA[5 Good Habits that Immensely Improve your Online Security]]>Fri, 06 May 2016 08:43:31 GMThttp://yourindependentfuture.com/how-you-can-protect-your-privacy/5-good-habits-that-immensely-improve-your-online-securityBy Komando Staff

In the age of drive-by downloads, ransomware, data breaches, rampant identity theft and millions of other digital threats, good online security is critical. Unfortunately, with attacks coming at you from every direction, it can sometimes feel like it's impossible to keep up.
However, it is possible to reduce the number of threats to a manageable level. It just takes developing some good security habits. None of these tasks is particularly difficult, but you need to do them regularly or they won't become a true habit. So keep reading to find out what you can start doing now to make your online life safer.

  The most important habit for good online security is to use strong security software. Good security software stops most attacks before they can even start, but great security software goes beyond that with other features that keep you safe.
For great security software, we recommend Kaspersky Total Security from Kaspersky Lab. Not only does it scan your computer and incoming files for threats, it warns you away from phishing sites, filters your spam email, blocks malicious programs from running, has a two-way firewall that keeps viruses from phoning home, helps you bank online safely and so much more.

More than 400 million people and 270,000 businesses worldwide trust Kaspersky Lab software, and for good reason. In 2015, Kaspersky Lab software took part in 94 tests of security software and took first place 60 times.

Get your copy of Kaspersky Total Security today and instantly make your computer safer. If you order now you save 50%. Even better, a single license covers up to five gadgets, whether it's Windows, Apple or Android.
Protect your gadgets today with Kaspersky Total Security and save 50%.
Of course, while great security software will protect you against most threats, there are still some things you can do to help out.

 One of the biggest threats out there is phishing scams. These are deceptive emails and text messages that trick you into clicking on a link to a malicious site or downloading malicious attachments.

There are a number of phishing scam tactics, but they all rely on you clicking before you have a chance to really think things through. A phishing scam might say there's a problem with your Amazon account and you need to click fast to clear it up. Or maybe it says you can win a free iPad if you sign up immediately.
Taking a second to think is usually enough time to unravel the scam. You might notice a fishy email address or horrible spelling and grammar, or just remember our advice to never click on links in unsolicited emails.

That's why you should make a habit of waiting a second or two before clicking any link. Use that second to confirm that nothing is out of the ordinary. And if you click the link and are presented with something else to click, take another second to really look at that as well.
While this will add a few seconds to each email, it's worth it when you easily avoid the next phishing email to roll around. Learn more about spotting and avoiding phishing email.
And remember, if you have Kaspersky Total Security, it will warn you about potential phishing scams before you click for another layer of security.

 Pausing before clicking isn't just for phishing emails either. If you're using a standard account in Windows, it will ask for permission before installing any program. You might get in the habit of just clicking "OK" to get rid of the message, but pause and make sure you know what it's trying to install. Otherwise you might agree to install a virus or other malicious download, without realizing it.

That's with a standard account, though. Many people have the habit of using whatever account their computer has set up when they get it. Often this is an administrator account. While using an administrator account is convenient (i.e. fewer popups asking for permission to do things), it's also much less safe.
With an administrator account, malicious programs can install or change settings without your permission. In fact, studies show that switching to a standard account can cut your risk from online threats by 86%. Find out how to switch over to a Standard account and make sure you always use one in the future.

Don't forget that Kaspersky Total Security has application blocking, so it can stop malicious apps from running before they do any damage.

 Securing your online accounts is just as important as securing your Windows account. The first step is to have a strong password and security question.
When you're creating an online account, you might be in the habit of rushing to get through the process so you can start using the site. That's why many people use weak passwords like "password" or "123456," or reuse passwords from other accounts.
Both of these make you unsafe. Hackers can get through an easy password in minutes. If you reuse passwords and they get your password in a data breach then they can get into all your accounts without problem. Even using variations on old passwords makes it much easier for hackers to guess them.

That's why you need to get into the habit of creating unique, complex passwords. These take more time to create, but they keep your information safe. Of course, you also need a good way to remember them.
We recommend using a password manager. This can store all your passwords behind a single master password. That way you can have dozens of complex passwords and only have to remember one. Most password managers can also help you create strong passwords.

KeePass is a good free password manager to look at. Kaspersky Total Security has a powerful built-in password manager as well. It can even share your passwords between your gadgets so they're always up to date.
When you're setting up your online accounts, you also shouldn't rush past the security questions. Most security questions ask for common information that a hacker or snoop can guess if they do a bit of research or know you. That's why you need to create answers that no one can guess. Learn how.

 Whenever you create an account on a new website, or every few months when you visit an old website, you should get in the habit of taking a few minutes to look through the account settings. You can often find additional security features to turn on, such as two-factor authentication, that will make you safer.
Two-factor authentication means that if a hacker gets your password, they still won't be able to log in to your account without access to your phone. Learn how two-factor authentication works and how to turn it on for sites you use regularly.


<![CDATA[How To Protect Your Personal Information Online]]>Sat, 23 Apr 2016 22:51:48 GMThttp://yourindependentfuture.com/how-you-can-protect-your-privacy/how-to-protect-your-personal-information-onlineINFOGRAPHIC January 23, 2014
Following the recent data breach at retail giant Target, which exposed credit card numbers and personal information of as many as 110 million people, many Americans have grown concerned about their safety and privacy online. Here is The Onion’s guide to keeping your personal information secure from hackers:
  • Always log into your Gmail account in person by traveling to Mountain View, CA and letting the Google folks know it’s you.
  • The key to protection is being informed about risks. If you receive a suspicious-looking email, assiduously click on all the links and follow their instructions to learn more about the threat.
  • To keep your phone data safe at all times, never unlock your iPhone screen.
  • Publicly post sensitive personal information about close friends and family to draw hackers away from you.
  • For usernames and passwords, choose something that’s easy for you to remember: a phrase you know you’ll never forget, like “Buchenw@ld,” “Dachau#!,” or “Bergen-Bel$en.”
  • Hackers have been known to infiltrate public Wi-Fi networks, so make sure to switch stores or cafés every 45 seconds while working in public.
  • Wear a plastic badge that says “CyberSecurity Force” to scare off snoopers.
  • Remember that if you offer hackers unconditional love they will no longer feel the need to hack.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings when accessing sensitive information in public. Listen closely for anyone nearby subsequently tapping on their laptop and then muttering, “I’m in.”
  • If you suspect your computer is untrustworthy, smash a radio in front of it with a hammer to send it a message.
  • There are lots of ways to stay safe online, but the most important are to just stay true to yourself and follow your heart.

<![CDATA[10 Incredibly Simple Things You Should Be Doing To Protect Your Privacy]]>Sun, 03 Apr 2016 08:51:49 GMThttp://yourindependentfuture.com/how-you-can-protect-your-privacy/10-incredibly-simple-things-you-should-be-doing-to-protect-your-privacy1Kashmir Hill
Over the weekend, I wound up at Washington, D.C.’s Trapeze School with a group of friends. Before one of them headed up a ladder to attempt a somersault landing from the trapeze bar, she handed me her phone and asked me to take photos. “What’s the password?” I asked. “I don’t use one,” she replied. My jaw dropped as it often does when someone I know tells me they’re choosing not to take one of the very simplest steps for privacy protection, allowing anyone to snoop through their phone with the greatest of ease, to see whichever messages, photos, and sensitive apps they please.
So this post is for you, guy with no iPad password, and for you, girl who stays signed into Gmail on her boyfriend’s computer, and for you, person walking down the street having a loud conversation on your mobile phone about your recent doctor’s diagnosis of that rash thing you have. These are the really, really simple things you should be doing to keep casual intruders from invading your privacy.
1. Password protect your devices: your smartphone, your iPad, your computer, your tablet, etc.
Some open bookers tell me it’s “annoying” to take two seconds to type in a password before they can use their phone. C’mon, folks. Choosing not to password protect these devices is the digital equivalent of leaving your home or car unlocked. If you’re lucky, no one will take advantage of the access. Or maybe the contents will be ravaged and your favorite speakers and/or secrets stolen.  If you’re not paranoid enough, spend some time reading entries in Reddit Relationships, where many an Internet user goes to discuss issues of the heart. A good percentage of the entries start, “I know I shouldn’t have, but I peeked at my gf’s phone and read her text messages, and…”

2. Put a Google GOOG +0.68% Alert on your name.
This is an incredibly easy way to stay on top of what’s being said about you online. It takes less than a minute to do. Go here. Enter your name, and variations of your name, with quotation marks around it. Boom. You’re done.

3. Sign out of Facebook FB +1.70%, Twitter, Gmail, etc. when you’re done with your emailing, social networking, tweeting, and other forms of time-wasting.
Not only will this slightly reduce the amount of tracking of you as you surf the Web, this prevents someone who later sits down at your computer from loading one of these up and getting snoopy. If you’re using someone else’s or a public computer, this is especially important. Yes, people actually forget to do this, with terrible outcomes.

4. Don’t give out your email address, phone number, or zip code when asked.
Obviously, if a sketchy dude in a bar asks for your phone number, you say no. But when the asker is a uniform-wearing employee at a store such as Best Buy, many a consumer hands over their digits when asked. Stores often use this info to help profile you and your purchase. You can say no. If you feel badly about it, just pretend the employee is the sketchy dude in the bar.

5. Encrypt your computer.
The word “encrypt” may sound like a betrayal of the simplicity I promised in the headline, but this is actually quite easy to do, especially if you’re a MacHead. Encrypting your computer means that someone has to have your password (or encryption key) in order to peek at its contents should they get access to your hard drive. On a Mac, you just go to your settings, choose “Security and Privacy,” go to “FileVault,” choose the “Turn on FileVault” option. Boom goes the encryption dynamite. PC folk need to useBitlocker.

6. Gmailers, turn on 2-step authentication in Gmail.
The biggest takeaway from the epic hack of Wired’s Mat Honan was that it probably wouldn’t have happened if he’d turned on “2-step verification” in Gmail. This simple little step turns your phone into a security fob — in order for your Gmail account to be accessed from a new device, a person (hopefully you) needs a code that’s sent to your phone. This means that even if someone gets your password somehow, they won’t be able to use it to sign into your account from a strange computer. Google says that millions of people use this tool, and that “thousands more enroll each day.” Be one of those people. The downside: It’s annoying if your phone battery dies or if you’re traveling abroad. The upside: you can print a piece of paper to take with you, says James Fallows at the Atlantic. Alternately, you can turn it off when you’re going to be abroad or phone-less. Or you can leave it permanently turned off, and increase your risk of getting epically hacked. Decision’s yours.

7. Pay in cash for embarrassing items.
Don’t want a purchase to be easily tracked back to you? You’ve seen the movies! Use cash. One data mining CEO says this is how he pays for hamburgers and junk food these days.

8. Change Your Facebook settings to “Friends Only.”
You’d think with the many Facebook privacy stories over the years that everyone would have their accounts locked down and boarded up like Florida houses before a hurricane. Not so. There are still plenty of Facebookers that are as exposed on the platform as Katy Perry at a water park. Visit your Facebook privacy settings. Make sure this “default privacy” setting isn’t set to public, and if it’s set to “Custom,” make sure you know and are comfortable with any “Networks” you’re sharing with.

9. Clear your browser history and cookies on a regular basis.
When’s the last time you did that? If you just shrugged, consider changing your browser settings so that this is automatically cleared every session. Go to the “privacy” setting in your Browser’s “Options.” Tell it to “never remember your history.” This will reduce the amount you’re tracked online. Consider a browser add-on like TACO to further reduce tracking of your online behavior.

10. Use an IP masker.
When you visit a website, you leave a footprint behind in the form of IP information. If you want to visit someone’s blog without their necessarily knowing it’s you — say if you’re checking out a biz competitor, a love interest, or an ex — you should consider masking your computer’s fingerprint, which at the very least gives away your approximate location and service provider. A person looking at their analytics would notice me as a regular visitor from Washington, D.C. for example, and would probably even be able to tell that I was visiting from a Forbes network address. To hide this, you can download Tor or use an easy browser-based option like HideMyAss.com. These are some of the easiest things you can do to protect your privacy. Ignoring these is like sending your personal information out onto the trapeze without a safety net. It might do fine… or it could get ugly. These are simple tips for basic privacy; if you’re in a high-risk situation where you require privacy from malicious actors, check out EFF’s surveillance self-defense tips.


<![CDATA[Here's Every Email The NSA Got After Asking Americans For Tips on How To Protect Privacy]]>Sun, 13 Mar 2016 09:58:51 GMThttp://yourindependentfuture.com/how-you-can-protect-your-privacy/heres-every-email-the-nsa-got-after-asking-americans-for-tips-on-how-to-protect-privacyBy Jason Leopold
October 20, 2015 | 11:12 pm
When then-NSA director Keith Alexander gave the keynote address at the Black Hat hackers convention in Las Vegas in 2013, he made an unusual pitch to the attendees: He asked them to help the NSA come up with ways to protect Americans' privacy and civil liberties. 
"How do we start this discussion on defending our nation and protecting our civil liberties and privacy?" Alexander asked the crowd. "The reason I'm here is because you may have some ideas of how we can do it better. We need to hear those ideas."

There were some hecklers. Alexander's appeal came just a few weeks after journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Barton Gellman first revealed details about the NSA's vast surveillance programs that targeted American citizens, information based on highly classified documents they received from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Still, Alexander asked the attendees — and, on the NSA's website, all Americans — to send their suggestions to ideas@nsa.gov.
VICE News subsequently filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the agency to find out if anyone wrote. It took the NSA nearly two years to respond.
Last week, the NSA turned over 14 emails sent to ideas@nsa.gov, the grand total of what it received after Alexander's call for proposals [pdf at the end of this story]. The NSA protected the privacy of the individuals who submitted the emails by redacting their names.
One person who submitted an idea on July 31, 2013 said, "Keep fighting the good fight not everyone is against you."
"Everyone seems up in arms over the fact that the NSA 'Can' do certain things even if the law keeps you from doing them," the person wrote. "Here is an idea for you to mull over. Just hear me out. Pipe all incoming information from any sort of interception program with the capability of collecting on American citizens through a process that uses the power of math (crypto) to protect individual privacy and yet still allows you the capability to unlock it in the case that you can prove (mathematically) that person is a threat."
'I did actually give you my cell number above. Not that you couldn't have found it anyways. =P'The person then went on to explain in great detail exactly how the process would work after, the person wrote in the email after "about 15 minutes of focused thought." Yan Zhu, a technology fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told VICE News she doubted the NSA would seriously consider the idea.
"The proposed design fails to offer any meaningful protection for 'individual privacy' because NSA generates the encryption keys; there's nothing stopping them from saving those and using them to decrypt anything whenever they want," Zhu said.
An idea submitted on August 1, 2013 by a person who claimed to hold a top-secret security clearance under the subject line "A solution that works for all" called for a "tokenization system that takes all incoming data and encrypts the original data for storage in a place that no user has direct access to."
The person said if the NSA was interested in discussing the proposal, the agency should call.
"I did actually give you my cell number above," the emailer wrote. "Not that you couldn't have found it anyways. =P"
One person who claimed to be a former soldier submitted an idea the same day that called for the NSA to track terrorists by affording "journalists abroad to contribute to the intelligence community," a relationship that "should be 'in the shadows.'"
"The United States cannot prevent an attack on its soil if it does not work alongside journalists," the person wrote. "However, the relationship should be 'in the shadows.' This meaning, to pinpoint a target, a journalist must be urged not to repeat their writing as a 'breaking story.' I do hope that my email does not come across as anything more than a patriotic act from a former soldier who cares about the safety of his loved ones more than a possibility of losing their own freedom in the process. God Bless the USA."
One e-mailer didn't have any ideas to offer. The person simply wanted the NSA to know that it's "doing a remarkable job at keeping the enemy at bay."
"I'll be damned if I know what these fools are complaining about, but you can bet they'd be clamoring at NSA's doorstep if they were victimized by some terrorist," the person wrote. "I don't care for intrusions into my privacy but there is a time and place when and where that is the only way we can keep ourselves safe from attacks…. I know abuses will happen. That is human nature. But I believe the good that is done far outweighs the bad. Please keep up the good work. Always on your side."
On August 2, a person submitted an email saying that, "I do not have a solution other than more restrictions on people."
Another emailer said the NSA could simply "stop keeping US citizen data indefinitely" if it really wanted to protect privacy and civil liberties. "Why not roll it off after 30 days if there is no link to terror suspected?" the August 7, 2013 email said. Moreover, "allow a independent 3rd party to validate your clams [sic] that there is 100% audit ability and that you are only collecting metadata not full content."
One person believed the NSA could target terrorists by forcing immigrants to join the military, which would "put a damper of any budding terrorist entering the country as they would be at risk of conscription and military rule…. I think a limited conscription. That requires every landed immigrant that is of a certain age to join the military for two years. Regardless of creed or religion. This would not entail military combat training…. The last thing is needed is highly trained disgruntled immigrants."
An idea sent to the NSA on February 6, 2014 suggested that the agency could equip drones with "facial recognition, weapon detention and a stun gun" and place them in locations "where risk of violence is high."

Once a face and a weapon has been detected, the drone would swiftly fly to the target and fire electrodes at the intruder, thereby incapacitating them and allowing the weapon to be secured by personnel it trusts," the person wrote. "This innovation, could in theory, help combat armed robbery."
The person did not present any ideas about how the NSA could protect individuals' privacy.
The NSA did not respond to VICE News' questions about whether the agency adopted or explored any of the ideas that were submitted to ideas@nsa.gov.


<![CDATA[How To Remove Information From Google & Public Records]]>Thu, 25 Feb 2016 00:17:06 GMThttp://yourindependentfuture.com/how-you-can-protect-your-privacy/how-to-remove-information-from-google-public-records
Privacy protection in the digital age is much more complicated than it used to be. In the past, if people wanted to access your public records, they had to visit the county clerk’s office. Today, many government documents containing highly sensitive personal data are readily available on the Internet, presented together with detailed marketing profiles, personal browsing histories, and social media data. Personally identifiable information is so pervasive online that even the Pentagon has had trouble keeping it hidden.
So is it even possible to remove your personal information from the Internet? Yes, there are steps you can take to make to make your data much harder to find. Reputation.com is the industry leader in online privacy sector, and we’ve compiled this detailed guide to help you get started.
Why your public information is online, even if you aren’tYou may wonder why so much personally identifiable information about you is accessible online. By law, certain types of government records must be made public, with access enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act. Tax liens, registered voter files, business licenses, and property tax assessor files are some of the most common public records, and they serve as a source of information for consumer confidence issues such as the true value of a property or the legitimacy of a business or professional. These records are also a powerful way to monitor the actions of government and keep it accountable.
Originally, these documents presented very few privacy threats, because they were only accessible by visiting government offices. Since the mid-1990s, however, states have worked hard to increase the availability of electronic versions of public records. Some states even sell your public records to online people-finder or information brokerage services, who then combine them and add other types of information to make much more detailed portraits of your private life.
While you can’t completely erase government public records—they’re public for a reason, after all—you can make them significantly harder to find online. As concerns with privacy protection and identity theft continue to grow, governments are adding new protections, such as automatic redaction of sensitive information and procedures to have data removed manually. You can take advantage of these protections, but only if you are proactive about it. In most cases, the default is to keep all information public.
First Steps in Protecting Your Online Privacy

Visit your county clerk to have your personal information altered or redacted.In most states, you can have certain types of personal data changed in your public records. You can also have other types of information redacted from the electronic versions of those records. Follow these steps:
  1. Obtain a post office box. Certain types of records, such as voter registration forms, require an address, but a post office box can be used for many government documents in most states.
  2. Visit your county clerk and review your public records. Ask what information can be removed, what can be redacted, and what can be changed. On many documents, you’ll be able to have your telephone number and most of your Social Security number redacted. You can also often have your PO box listed as your address.
  3. Check the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) database at the county clerk’s office. The UCC database lists information on property ownership and liens and may contain your Social Security number. The clerk may not automatically show you this database when you ask to see your records, but the information is still accessible to the public.
Following these steps, you can ensure that only essential information is available from government sources.
Opt out of people-finder and information brokerage services.Unfortunately, simply changing your public records won’t automatically protect your personal data. There are dozens of information brokerage services that sell or give away your personal information and that will continue to provide the nonredacted version of your public records unless instructed otherwise.
Most of these companies will remove personal information from their databases, although some require you to make a request in writing and to provide some proof of identification.
In the unlikely event that an information brokerage refuses to update your information, you can submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC won’t act on behalf of individuals, but if enough complaints are lodged, it may launch an investigation into the business.
Control your privacy through online reputation management tools.Keeping your sensitive personal data private requires regular effort on your part, because people-search sites will continually re-add you, whenever a new piece of data appears about you online. They use automated data collection methods, so whenever something new appears about you, that information can trigger the creation of a new personal record, even if you’ve opted out.
Admittedly, protecting your privacy can feel like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. Reputation.com’s suite of privacy products were designed to automate and simplify the process.
Our Reputation.com Pro service does the work of monitoring information brokerages for you, alerting you whenever new findings appear. In addition, Reputation.com Pro offers a simple, one-click interface for opting out of people-finder services, so you can protect your privacy without having to research each individual website’s procedures and requirements. We also offer Executive Privacy, a premium privacy service that provides even more stringent protection for individuals with prominent positions.


<![CDATA[4 Ways To Stay Anonymous And Hide Your Identity Online]]>Sun, 31 Jan 2016 00:25:43 GMThttp://yourindependentfuture.com/how-you-can-protect-your-privacy/4-ways-to-stay-anonymous-and-hide-your-identity-onlineгость   20th March     Your Life
Even if you aren’t doing anything illegal, your privacy is important and, at times, calls for hiding your identity online.
It’s a bit difficult to do this on the internet, since everything is recorded in cookies and your IP address when you browse, in fact companies like Facebook and Google openly admit to tracking what you do online so they can market to you. So what can you do?
1. Sign out of social media and delete cookies
The technically savvy will say this won’t work, since your IP address is still the same and companies can track you. But, it’s still a small level of protection, as Facebook won’t be able to track who is reading articles via their Like buttons, and Google won’t be able to identify you either.
Also, ISPs do in fact change your IP sometimes, which will stifle companies from tracking you. Be careful though, cookies do get set in your browser to track you. If you want to be safe with this method, disable cookies on your browser.
2. Proxies
This is the second level of protection. Proxies are free services, mostly just a random server, that you go to and enter the URL you want to visit. Then they show you the page via their server, usually along with their own adverts to make money.
This is the favourite of schoolkids who want to access Facebook at school when its banned, they can easily load it up via a proxy. The downside is they are usually very slow. To find a proxy, try a large site like Proxy.org.
3. TOR
is a piece of software that let’s you hide your IP address. What happens is anyone can sign up as a node, and then people can browse the internet via your server or machine. These nodes act as proxies.
The whole service is free, although when we tested it, it was a bit slow.
4. VPNs
VPNs are the ultimate solution to hiding your identity. They are professional servers, maintained in many countries, and have professionally programmed software that routes all your traffic via these servers.
Some of these services log what you are doing, but some even offer to not log anything that you do! So you are 100% hidden from the world via their servers. There are hundreds of VPNs, to find a decent one check out BestVPN.com.
Just to summarise, you get what you pay for. If you want to browse anonymously for free, you need to put some work into it yourself, and it probably isn’t going to be quick — you will be browsing slowly.
If you are willing to spend $5-$10 per month, you can buy services that will hide your identity online and offer quick internet at the same time. The choice is yours!


<![CDATA[Everyone's Trying To Track What You Do On The Web: Here's How To Stop Them]]>Thu, 28 Jan 2016 10:03:24 GMThttp://yourindependentfuture.com/how-you-can-protect-your-privacy/everyones-trying-to-track-what-you-do-on-the-web-heres-how-to-stop-themAlan Henry
2/22/12 8:00am
It's no secret that there's big money to be made in violating your privacy. Companies will pay big bucks to learn more about you, and service providers on the web are eager to get their hands on as much information about you as possible.
So what do you do? How do you keep your information out of everyone else's hands? Here's a guide to surfing the web while keeping your privacy intact.
The adage goes, "If you're not paying for a service, you're the product, not the customer," and it's never been more true. Every day more news breaks about a new company that uploads your address book to their servers, skirts in-browser privacy protection, and tracks your every move on the web to learn as much about your browsing habits and activities as possible. In this post, we'll explain why you should care, and help you lock down your surfing so you can browse in peace.

Why You Should Care
Your personal information is valuable. More valuable than you might think. When we originally published our guide to stop Facebook from tracking you around the web, some people cried "So what if they track me? I'm not that important/I have nothing to hide/they just want to target ads to me and I'd rather have targeted ads over useless ones!" To help explain why this is short-sighted and a bit naive, let me share a personal story.
Before I joined the Lifehacker team, I worked at a company that traded in information. Our clients were huge companies and one of the services we offered was to collect information about people, their demographics, income, and habits, and then roll it up so they could get a complete picture about who you are and how to convince you to buy their products. In some cases, we designed web sites and campaigns to convince you to provide even more information in exchange for a coupon, discount, or the simple promise of other of those. It works very, very well.
The real money is in taking your data and shacking up with third parties to help them come up with new ways to convince you to spend money, sign up for services, and give up more information. Relevant ads are nice, but the real value in your data exists where you won't see it until you're too tempted by the offer to know where it came from, whether it's a coupon in your mailbox or a new daily deal site with incredible bargains tailored to your desires. It all sounds good until you realize the only thing you have to trade for such "exciting" bargains is everything personal about you: your age, income, family's ages and income, medical history, dietary habits, favorite web sites, your birthday...the list goes on. It would be fine if you decided to give up this information for a tangible benefit, but you may never see a benefit aside from an ad, and no one's including you in the decision. Here's how to take back that control.
How to Stop Trackers from Following Where You're Browsing with Chrome
If you're a Chrome user, there are tons of great add-ons and tools designed to help you uncover which sites transmit data to third parties without your knowledge, which third parties are talking about you, and which third parties are tracking your activity across sites. This list isn't targeted to a specific social network or company—instead, these extensions can help you with multiple offenders.

  • Adblock Plus - We've discussed AdBlock plus several times, but there's never been a better time to install it than now. For extra protection, one-click installs the Antisocial subscription for AdBlock. With it, you can banish social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ from transmitting data about you after you leave those sites, even if the page you visit has a social plugin on it.
  • Ghostery - Ghostery does an excellent job at blocking the invisible tracking cookies and plug-ins on many web sites, showing it all to you, and then giving you the choice whether you want to block them one-by-one, or all together so you'll never worry about them again. The best part about Ghostery is that it's not just limited to social networks, but will also catch and show you ad-networks and web publishers as well.
  • ScriptNo for Chrome - ScriptNo is much like Ghostery in that any scripts running on any site you visit will sound its alarms. The difference is that while Ghostery is a bit more exclusive about the types of information it alerts you to, ScriptNo will sound the alarm at just about everything, which will break a ton of websites. You'll visit the site, half of it won't load or work, and you'll have to selectively enable scripts until it's usable. Still, its intuitive interface will help you choose which scripts on a page you'd like to allow and which you'd like to block without sacrificing the actual content on the page you'd like to read.
  • Do Not Track Plus - The "Do Not Track" feature that most browsers have is useful, but if you want to beef them up, the previously mentioned
  • Do Not Track Plus extension puts a stop to third-party data exchanges, like when you visit a site like ours that has Facebook and Google+ buttons on it. By default, your browser will tell the network that you're on a site with those buttons—with the extension installed, no information is sent until you choose to click one. Think of it as opt-in social sharing, instead of all-in.
Ghostery, AdBlock Plus, and Do Not Track are the ones you'll need the most. ScriptNo is a bit more advanced, and may take some getting used to. In addition to installing extensions, make sure you practice basic browser maintenance that keeps your browser running smoothly and protects your privacy at the same time. Head into Chrome's Advanced Content Settings, and make sure you have third-party cookies blocked and all cookies set to clear after browsing sessions. Log out of social networks and web services when you're finished using them instead of just leaving them perpetually logged in, and use Chrome's "Incognito Mode" whenever you're concerned about privacy.
How to Stop Trackers from Following Where You're Browsing with Firefox
Many of the essential privacy extensions for Firefox are from the same developers who made their Chrome counterparts, and they work in similar fashion.
  • Adblock Plus - AdBlock Plus is just as essential in Firefox as it is in Chrome, as is the Antisocial subscription, which you can install at the Antisocial site. The extension and the subscription together are a powerful combination to remove annoying ads from sites you love, retain the ones that don't bother you, and keep ads and plug-ins from sending data about you without your explicit consent.
  • Ghostery - Ghostery is also available for Firefox, and gives you the same information about the scripts, cookies, and trackers under every site you visit. Click the icon in your status bar to see what information a given site is collecting and sending about you, and you can pick and choose what to allow or what to block.
  • Do Not Track Plus - Do Not Track Plus is also available for Firefox, and works the same way as the Chrome version.
  • NoScript - NoScript is a great extension and provides you an incredible amount of information about what's happening behind the scenes on any site that you visit—the trouble with it is that that information can be overwhelming, and if you don't allow certain things, the site simply won't work until you do. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with NoScript for that reason, but if you're serious about not letting anything run on a site without your permission, this is the tool for you.
  • Priv3 - Although it's only available for Firefox, this experimental extension from researchers at Rutgers University and the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) will protect you from third-party cookies set by Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. We've mentioned it before, and I still have it installed myself. Like Do Not Track Plus, it doesn't remove elements from a page—it simply makes them inactive until you interact with them.
We'd say Ghostery, AdBlock Plus, and Priv3 are the essentials here. Do Not Track Plus and Priv3 cover some of the same territory, so you can go either way there, and as with Chrome, NoScript is for advanced users looking for more granular control. Firefox's "Do Not Track" feature is worth enabling as well, even if many sites circumvent it with well-placed cookies and social plug-ins that are all but required if a site wants a social media presence or solid placement in search results these days. Additionally, make yourself familiar with Firefox's privacy and content settings. As with any browser, we suggest you log out of services when you're finished, and set Firefox to clear your private data, cookies, and browsing history when you close the browser. If you're more worried about some sites than others, you can always just clearthose cookies when you log out.
How to Stop Trackers from Following Where You're Browsing with Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera.
Firefox and Chrome may get the spotlight in the browser wars, but those of you using Safari, IE, or Opera aren't totally safe just by virtue of your browser choice. Just this week, Google was caught with its hands in the cookie jar (no pun intended) circumventing cookie protection controls in Internet Explorer 9. Nik Cubrilovic has an excellent write up of the situation, and he points out that they're not alone by any means. In response, Microsoft has published a tracking protection add-in for IE9 to stop them.
Regardless of your browser, the same types of basic maintenance we mentioned are in order. Do Not Track Plus is available for Safari and IE users, there's a special build of AdBlock for Safari. for Opera, and even Internet Explorer. NoScript or ScriptNo fans can use NotScripts for Opera to get the same effect. These are a few examples, but look around—its likely that while some of the extensions mentioned above may not be available for your preferred browser, someone's taken the initiative to write a similar add-on that gets the job done.

Mobile Browsing
Mobile browsing is a new frontier. There are dozens of mobile browsers, and even though most people use the one included on their device, there are few tools to protect your privacy by comparison to the desktop. Check to see if your preferred browser has a "privacy mode" that you can use while browsing, or when you're logged in to social networks and other web services. Try to keep your social network use inside the apps developed for it, and—as always—make sure to clear your private data regularly.
Some mobile browsers have private modes and the ability to automatically clear your private data built in, like Firefox for Android, Atomic Web Browser, and Dolphin Browser for both iOS and Android. Considering Dolphin is our pick for the best Android browser and Atomic is our favorite for iOS, they're worth downloading.
Extreme Measures
If none of these extensions make you feel any better, or you want to take protecting your privacy and personal data to the next level, it's time to break out the big guns. One tip that came up during our last discussion about Facebook was to use a completely separate web browser just for logged-in social networks and web services, and another browser for potentially sensitive browsing, like your internet shopping, banking, and other personal activities. If you have some time to put into it, check out our guide to browsing without leaving a trace, which was written for Firefox, but can easily be adapted to any browser you use.

If you're really tired of companies tracking you and trading in your personal information, you always have the option to just provide false information. The same way you might give a fake phone number or address to a supermarket card sign-up sheet, you can scrub or change personal details about yourself from your social network profiles, Google accounts, Windows Live account, and others.
Change your birth date, or your first name. Set your phone number a digit off, or omit your apartment number when asked for your street address. We've talked about how to disappear before, and carefully examine the privacy and account settings for the web services you use. Keep in mind that some of this goes against the terms of service for those companies and services—they have a vested interest in knowing the real you, after all, so tread carefully and tread lightly if you want to go the "make yourself anonymous" route. Worst case, start closing accounts with offending services, and migrate to other, more privacy-friendly options.

These are just a few tips that won't significantly change your browsing experience, but can go a long way toward protecting your privacy. This issue isn't going anywhere, and as your personal information becomes more valuable and there are more ways to keep it away from prying eyes, you'll see more news of companies finding ways to eke out every bit of data from you and the sites you use. Some of these methods are more intrusive than others, and some of them may turn you off entirely, but the important thing is that they all give you control over how you experience the web. When you embrace your privacy, you become engaged with the services you use. With a little effort and the right tools, you can make the web more opt-in than it is opt-out.


<![CDATA[How Can I Protect My Privacy Online?]]>Thu, 14 Jan 2016 08:21:19 GMThttp://yourindependentfuture.com/how-you-can-protect-your-privacy/how-can-i-protect-my-privacy-onlineRob wonders if an 'automated watcher' is tracking his web use and sending relevant spam.
Within seconds of placing an order at Amazon I received two messages purporting to come from DHL saying "Processing complete successfully". I assumed they related to my Amazon order, but I noticed a couple of odd things: (a) that they were sent to (different) email addresses that I have only infrequently used, and (b) the attachment had two extensions: pdf and zip (DH'L_Express_Processing_complete.pdf.zip).

During the summer, after booking a hotel room, I quickly received two or three emails with the subject "Booking confirmation". They were obvious spams from the poor quality of the content.

I am used to spam, and know how to deal with it. What concerns me is the apparent link between my activities and the content of the spams. It makes me feel as if there is an automated "watcher" waiting to see if I use certain sites then sending relevant spam.

I am running Windows Vista Business SP2 with Windows Defender, and for extra security, I manually scan with Malwarebytes Antimalware about once per week. Everything is up-to-date. Rob Cameron

I suspect these are coincidences. Billions of spam emails are sent every week, and you may well receive hundreds of legitimate emails each week. They almost never coincide, but we are pretty good at spotting when they do.

In this case, all the emails were spam, and the first one was part of a virus attack. A quick search on the attachment's filename finds Graham Cluley, our old friend from Sophos, identifying the malware as a Trojan (Troj/BredoZp-S) and warning against it.

But I would not have been surprised if the various emails had turned out to be genuine. Data tracking has been getting more and more sophisticated over the past few years, while users have been getting more predictable, thanks partly to broadband internet connections that keep you on the same IP address for months or even years.

Some websites now use software that can identify visitors by name, using tracking cookies (small text files websites store on your hard drive), internet addresses, and forms filled in at other sites. (See, for example, You're not anonymous. I know your name, email, and company, and Nowhere to hide: Advertisers can now stalk you across multiple devices.)

Google is the web's biggest advertising company and one of the most obvious trackers. It uses a huge network of ads that are shown across millions of websites, DoubleClick ad-tracking, the Play marketplace on Android phones and Google Search on Apple iOS devices – unless you opt out. It also looks as though the main purpose of its Google Plus website is to get users' real names and other accurate data, which Facebook has but won't provide to Google.

Facebook has also extended itself across much of the web using Facebook Connect and Like buttons. Users can log on to participating sites using their Facebook identity, and this gives these sites access to some information from their Facebook profiles. This is handy but less private than using different IDs for different sites, or using throwaway IDs and passwords from Bug Me Not.

The latest Web Privacy Census by the UC Berkeley Center for Law and Technology found the most popular 100 websites dropped thousands of cookies (6,485 on 24 October), and that 84.7% of them were third-party cookies. In other words, most cookies were not used by the site you visited (Amazon, Twitter etc) but by advertising and tracking companies such as Google's doubleclick.net (the biggest, dropping 69 cookies), scorecardresearch.com (54), and bluekai.com (41).

So yes, there's a whole host of "automated watchers" waiting to see if you use Amazon/your bank/hotel booking sites etc, and they may "spam" you with targeted advertising or perhaps legitimate email offers. (The companies argue that it is better to show you ads about things you are interested in, and they have a point.) Given that there are several hundred tracking companies, it would be surprising if there wasn't some "leakage" into less legitimate approaches, though I've not seen any evidence of this happening. However, hacking is always a possibility.

Several companies offer software to control or block cookies, and most web browsers let you block third-party cookies selectively. This means you can keep the website's cookies that, for example, remember which pages you have viewed while blocking the trackers. Two free ones I use are Abine's DoNotTrackMe and Evidon'sGhostery. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) also has an interesting project called HTTPS Everywhere, which uses a Chrome or Firefox extension to redirect some popular websites (Google Search, Wikipedia) over secure connections without breaking anything.

You can also load sites such as Gmail, Google Plus and Facebook using each browser's "private browsing" feature. This is called InPrivate Browsing in Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Incognito in Google Chrome, and Start Private Browsing in Firefox. While it's not practical to block all cookies, you can set each browser to delete cookies when you close it, which you should then do every couple of days. This will make the web less convenient, and you will have to enter passwords more often, but it will help increase your privacy.

Further, avoid using search engines like Google, which save your searches and send data to websites. Some alternatives are designed to protect your privacy, such as DuckDuckGo. This has an easy-to-read explanation at donttrack.us. If you absolutely must have Google search, access it via Ixquick's Startpage. This is a secure (HTTPS) page that sends your search to Google but throws away your search data and all the tracking information. (It also has a "family filter" which makes it a good search engine for kids.)

Another way to protect your privacy is to use an anonymous browsing service, though the free ones greatly limit what you can do online. I often useAnonyMouse and Hide My Ass!, which set up an encrypted "virtual private network" (VPN) between your PC and their servers. Websites get loads of hits from these anonymous servers, but can't identify you from thousands of other users.

VPNs are a particularly good idea when using public networks such as Wi-Fi hotspots. See my earlier answer, Using a VPN to protect your web use, for more details.

Finally, although you say "everything is up-to-date", I'll bet it's not. If you runSecunia's Personal Software Inspector (PSI), it will probably find half a dozen programs that need updating.

This may well include Google Chrome and various Adobe programs, Apple's QuickTime and Oracle's Java. PSI finds the non-Microsoft programs that are not up-to-date, provides links that you can click to update them, and charts your progress week by week.