Briefly How To Protect Your Civil E-Liberties

Some of you may be more worried now about your privacy and the protection of your civil liberties. I have been a long-time advocate for maintaining private, encrypted communications, and have stayed on top of the technology. Here are some things you should do, right now:

Stop sending personal, private, or sensitive information via cleartext. This means SMS (text) messages and regular ol’ email are off the table. Just don’t do it. Period.

However, this means that you and all the people you communicate with need to use a secure method of communication. Google has a new cross-platform chat app called Allo. Unlike Apple’s system (which only works on Apple devices), Allo does not encrypt messages by default, but if you use Incognito Mode it will make the messages private. (Note: this is not the same as Incognito Mode in Chrome.) Or you could use the Signal app, which is also cross-platform compatible, and will secure your text messages with any other user on the system automatically. Signal has a nifty feature that creates end-to-end encrypted voice calls, a bit like James Bond spy agency tech stuff.

As for email, really your only choice is to use PGP encryption. Yes, it’s complicated and technical and most of you are not inclined to learn how to use it. So let’s make this simple: do not send any private information via email (unless you have a guru). There: problem solved.

Screen Shot 2016-11-10 at 11.40.48.png<- Remember, this lock icon in your web browser only secures the data between your computer and the web server. Email is totally unencrypted once it leaves your server and heads over to your recipient’s server. Think of sending an email like sending a postcard to someone: anyone and everyone can read it in-transit.

The important thing here is to be conscious of how your communications systems work, and this takes a certain level of understanding. Technical subjects are not always the easiest to understand, but refusing to learn is tantamount to blind trust in the large companies, governments, and other unknown interests that may ever get a whiff of your private data.

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Author: PhilRW

software engineer, pianist, polymath

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