Weekend Open Forum: How do you protect your privacy online?

By on June 14, 2013, 6:30 PM

News about PRISM, Verizon data collection, and other government surveillance has flooded media outlets for the last week, leaving U.S. citizens and members of the international community feeling uncomfortable with the volume and methods of data collection that have been revealed.

Christopher Reynolds of IVPN lends his advice to TechSpot readers on how to gain some ground on the battle for internet privacy, but also raises the point that our own apathy may be the biggest barrier to protecting our privacy online. I’ve tried many tools, plugins, and browsing practices in an attempt to gain some semblance of anonymity and privacy, but the fact of the matter is, it’s very inconvenient. Blocking scripts and cookies reduces or eliminates functionality on many websites, and VPN's are typically some fraction of the speed of a the parent connection.

As a technologically inclined and informed population, we’re curious what measures you take to protect your privacy online, or, maybe you’re among those who are comfortable with the data that’s being collected. Let us know the steps you take to protect yourself in the comments, or why you don't feel it's necessary.




User Comments: 25

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misor misor said:

No facebook account.

private browsing/incognito mode; 'do not track me'; no-script; use of aliases.

2 people like this | MilwaukeeMike said:

but the fact of the matter is, it?s very inconvenient

When the internet started to become popular many people freaked out about e-commerce. They said there's no way they'd ever enter their credit card into a website. Fast forward a few years and we not only enter it all the time, we even store it on our favorite websites so we don't have to enter it every time we buy something. So now most of us don't do anything because it's inconvenient.

The irony is we're all talking about privacy, but the biggest threat to our personal data is how simple passwords are to get around. Either by guessing them, finding answers to security questions online, or just calling up the site and talking the customer rep into resetting it. Here's some good reading from WIRED about it. [link]

Guest said:

I live in basement 250m deep undergound and use cable-internet connected to local gov. station near by :)

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The irony is we're all talking about privacy, but the biggest threat to our personal data is how simple passwords are to get around. Either by guessing them, finding answers to security questions online, or just calling up the site and talking the customer rep into resetting it.
Being hacked by an outside source no matter how easy is completely different, than government officials barging right in by use of an inside source. Why bother prosecuting a hacker, when it is being done legally on a governmental scale? How can we stand proudly behind our government, when they break the very laws they are enforcing? I'm sorry! If our government want privacy, the least they can do is respect our personal privacy.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Being hacked by an outside source no matter how easy is completely different, than government officials barging right in by use of an inside source. Why bother prosecuting a hacker, when it is being done legally on a governmental scale? How can we stand proudly behind our government, when they break the very laws they are enforcing? I'm sorry! If our government want privacy, the least they can do is respect our personal privacy.

You're right being hacked is completely different. You make it sound like the govt is the same as a hacker. The govt listens to what you send out, a hacker comes in and takes. Or are you talking about when the govt seized the phone records of the reporter from the AP? Or maybe the [link] ?

Honestly, if you're worried... just put a big hope and change slogan on your facebook page and you'll be fine.

Cycloid Torus Cycloid Torus said:

Don't never do nothing I wouldn't do in broad daylight on Main Street in center of town.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

You're right being hacked is completely different. You make it sound like the govt is the same as a hacker.
Maybe so but I believe they are worse.

Dawn1113 said:

I do the usual things -- incognito mode, no cookies, do a thorough sweep for spyware every so often. Nothing much beyond that. I use another computer for my online purchases. That one is never on unless I intend to buy something from amazon, and I have to manually connect it to the internet each time.

Beyond that, not much more. I figure if someone wants badly enough to spy on me, he or she could do so quite easily -- given the stuff people can do nowadays. That person would have to be one huge loser to take an interest in my boring internet routines, though.

1 person liked this | JC713 JC713 said:

I should disable cookies. But why do people use incognito mode? I find it a hassle to log in each and every time to a site. I have adblock, that is about it. I should start using noscript. I recommend you guys use Disconnect: https://disconnect.me/.

misor misor said:

I should disable cookies. But why do people use incognito mode? I find it a hassle to log in each and every time to a site. I have adblock, that is about it. I should start using noscript. I recommend you guys use Disconnect: https://disconnect.me/.

I run ie/ff/opera/goggle chrome in normal mode, then store my techspot (and other websites) credentials.

next time I run the browser in private mode, I no longer need to enter my password.

unless I manually delete password stored or manually deleted the browsing history.

Guest said:

Until 1989 I lived in totalitarian romania and I still remember how you had to be very attentive what you said and to whom (in the street, at school, at work and even at home). it was extremely easy to get arrested, questioned, held indefinitely and many didn't make it back home

I know many people in the "free world" never had a taste of this and I hope they never will but this kinda makes them quite... vulnerable, ideologically -- you don't really value your freedom until you lose it

I don't blame the NSA -- they are trying to do their job and they tried to push laws that would make that easier or more efficient. it's the fact that they succeeded in pushing those laws that worries me -- regular people like you and me granted them the right to invade online privacy in such an aggressive way

it's only a matter of time until our governments will have us all filmed 24/7 and have our location information, and maybe our biological data, and maybe they will figure out a way to tell what we are feeling or thinking. they might already be in the process of doing just that

so I say: giving up online privacy is just another battle that we cannot afford to lose in a war that is not obvious to most of us

anyway, our lives rely more and more on our online... content and soon (as "in a few years") this will become a serious issue for the majority (as it's now only for a minority)

so (again) I say: let's do what it takes, let's sacrifice some confort for privacy and use vpn and other tools that are available (people can run their own chat, email and voip servers and they can use encryption, and they can even encapsulate that encryption in vpn encryption, to make things even harder for spies -- government licensed ones or not); yes, the connections will be slower, work will be required, etc. but today we can afford it -- we have bandwidth and processing power that was unimaginable a few years ago and we have _some_ freedom left that is worth fighting for

when I was young and I was living in fear there was very little that could be done -- the only way was to shut up and hope for the best but today we _can_ do something about it so... let's do it

Guest said:

There is no way to protect your privacy online, every site is vulnerable to hackers, every password can be broken in minutes or hours (Ars ran a massive article about this recently), the gov is spying on everyone (except the hackers, apparently!!). Your best bet is to never use your real name, never buy anything online unless it's with a prepaid credit card so the hackers who the NSA apparently doesn't watch can't hack into your bank account. Oh and don't buy an Xbox One, as it's mandatory 3d mapping camera is the biggest invasion of privacy in the history of consumer technology.

Have a nice day!! :D

soldier1969 soldier1969 said:

Use a VPN when downloading, use Ghostery while browsing, never remember history in browser. Scan for malware/ viruses daily. Use bogus inactive email accounts to blog and comment. Don't use Twitter or FB. Browse in private mode. Search using Startpage and not Google. Lots of ways to avoid the MAN!

2 people like this | TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I think you can go overboard on trying to hide. It's the Internet for crying out loud. If you dip your toe in, you're opening up yourself to detection, that's part of being on the Internet.

So I do prudent measures. I don't do Twitter or Facebook. I have separate e-mail accounts for different activities (shopping, close friends, distant family, etc.). Use DuckDuckGo for Internet searches. Have a stout firewall and password on my wireless router. Run CCleaner, SpyBot and Malwarebytes weekly, etc.

You can either spend your time enjoying what the Internet has to offer using safe-surfing/non-detection techniques, or you can drive yourself crazy worrying about who is "looking" at you. Bottom line, if you have nothing to hide and aren't engaging in nefarious activities, "the man" isn't going to devote a whole lot of time looking at you anyway. If you want to be concerned about detection, be concerned about malware and the fools who are trying to crack your accounts for money or perverse personal pleasure.

Guest said:

I use a plugin called https everywhere, so every website uses https instead of http. I encrypt my drives, I use thunderbird with an email encryption plugin(although I don't think that helps a lot). I don't even have anything to hide, I just want to piss off the government for trying to invade my privacy.

treetops treetops said:

I get the whole if your not doing anything wrong don't worry thing. But whats next turning on our web cams to catch us doing illegal activity? Hacking into our computer to record video of everything we do? Then what if they send us a bill for a copyrighted youtube video we watched? Or send us a fine because they over heard you say on your cell phone voice speaker they turned on that you accidentally ran a stop sign? After 911 the xfile 90s age died and we clinged to the government, we gave them quite a bit of rights in sheer terror and they took full advantage of our fear. Nixon was fing impeached for wire tapping?! Since the patriot act in what 2002 the government has been wire tapping the entire country without a search warrant....

Its just damn creepy, I get it we need to protect the country but our politicians do not make decisions on whats best for america they make decisions on whats best for their pocket, such pieces of garbage shouldn't be given that much power.

1 person liked this | colinf said:

I think you can go overboard on trying to hide. It's the Internet for crying out loud. If you dip your toe in, you're opening up yourself to detection, that's part of being on the Internet.

So I do prudent measures. I don't do Twitter or Facebook. I have separate e-mail accounts for different activities (shopping, close friends, distant family, etc.). Use DuckDuckGo for Internet searches. Have a stout firewall and password on my wireless router. Run CCleaner, SpyBot and Malwarebytes weekly, etc.

You can either spend your time enjoying what the Internet has to offer using safe-surfing/non-detection techniques, or you can drive yourself crazy worrying about who is "looking" at you. Bottom line, if you have nothing to hide and aren't engaging in nefarious activities, "the man" isn't going to devote a whole lot of time looking at you anyway. If you want to be concerned about detection, be concerned about malware and the fools who are trying to crack your accounts for money or perverse personal pleasure.

so much this

some folks really do have a fixation that "the man" is watching them, when in reality "the man" doesn't give 2 hoots about them

JC713 JC713 said:

Use a VPN when downloading, use Ghostery while browsing, never remember history in browser. Scan for malware/ viruses daily. Use bogus inactive email accounts to blog and comment. Don't use Twitter or FB. Browse in private mode. Search using Startpage and not Google. Lots of ways to avoid the MAN!

Meh, using VPNs is too much effort lol.

I use a plugin called https everywhere, so every website uses https instead of http. I encrypt my drives, I use thunderbird with an email encryption plugin(although I don't think that helps a lot). I don't even have anything to hide, I just want to piss off the government for trying to invade my privacy.

I used to use HTTPS everywhere, but a lot of sites lack support for it and I ran into some compatibility issues. I am fine with the Disconnect plug in.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

I recommend you guys use Disconnect: https://disconnect.me/.

Ok, I just did, and I can see that while it does block from many ad websites, it still permits access to many others, without even giving you an option to block those. That looks either dumb or they are being paid by a select group of websites to continue flogging their crap.

Let me give you an example. Techspot is shown to connect directly to www.imgur.com and www.thoughtleadr.com, both are some trash you don't want, and you can't even block access to them in Disconnect.me. That's just crap.

Now, considering they offer no online forum or any other means of providing feedback, tells me they don't really care, perhaps just as they don't really care whether they actually protect you or not...

rvnwlfdroid said:

I use an etch a sketch for all forms of communication. err well except for the puter / phone / tablet / fablet errr... Never mind.

I just try to minimize my online foot print when it comes to any banking / credit card purchases. If the government wants to know how many times I visit Techspot or CNN every day... I can see both sides of that monitoring coin. If your not doing anything illegal then you have less to worry about.

Spykezxp Spykezxp said:

Browse in Private Mode, history is turned off in browser, use a VPN, automatic sweep for Spyware / Malware daily, Multiple levels of firewalls (both hardware and software type), use complex passwords and then the most common sense one is limit what I do that involves personal information online. May sound like overkill, but I prefer it this way.

1 person liked this | Blkfx1 Blkfx1 said:

As most people have listed - the usual no script, private browsing and VPN's. But, I'm not too concerned about my internet security. I only read techspot and watch cat videos.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I don't do much at all to protect myself. It's not too hard to connect me to my online posts, and I have a big enough public footprint and had it for a long enough time that I think it would be silly to inconvenience myself to hide the private part more than it's hidden by default. I don't go about actively publicising my private life on Facebook, but I do have Facebook and Twitter accounts which I use for some purposes.

1 person liked this | Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

The easiest way to protect yourself is to use your bosses computer after you've acquired their details over a couple of drinks you've paid for.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The easiest way to protect yourself is to use your bosses computer after you've acquired their details over a couple of drinks you've paid for.

Thats the true definition of paying for insurance. lol

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