If You Aren't Taking Privacy Serious, You Will Have None
In a time where surveillance capitalism, state-led mass data harvesting, and cyberattacks are on the rise, it's time to learn how to protect your privacy before it's completely lost.
In the early 90s, when I was a kid living in small-town Austria, the police tapped my family’s landline. A business associate of my dad was (allegedly) involved in an unsavory business transaction, so the Austrian police saw it fit to invade our family’s privacy.
I felt violated and wronged when I found out. I may have only been talking to my grandmother on the phone, but those conversations (probably about toys) were between me and her. My father was not involved in his associate’s dealings so there was no reason for a government agency to listen in to our private conversations.
Welcome to the second issue of “A Little Bit of Anarchy” by Alex Lielacher
In this week’s issue, I want to talk to you about privacy.
If you know me personally - since you are reading this, you probably do - then you will have probably received unsolicited advice from me, at some point, on how to improve your privacy in today’s digital-first society, where surveillance capitalism, government spying, and cyberattacks have become part of our lives whether we realize it or not.
"Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say."
- Edward Sowden
Privacy is not reserved only for those who have something to hide. You don’t need to be an international drug dealer running from Interpol to care about your privacy.
No matter what walk of life you are from, you have a right to privacy.
The bad news is: no one will protect your privacy for you.
Yes, there are organizations that lobby for privacy and they fight a righteous battle but, for the most part, you are on your own with this.
Fortunately, there are companies, open-source projects and communities, and private individuals who are developing privacy solutions and educating people on how to protect their privacy in the digital age.
There is (Effectively) No Privacy Online
When I first started using the internet in the late 90s, I immediately understood that everything you put online could be accessed by someone else.
I was never one was of those people that thought Facebook messages were private or that you could share sensitive information in an email.
And then the Snowden reveals happened and exposed what conspiracy theorists were harping on about for decades: your government is spying on you.
Yes, it may be more in some countries than in others. But, for the most part, I would not recommend trusting your government with protecting your privacy. Or with anything else for that matter.
Almost all digitized data can be accessed by third-parties.
And corporations, government agencies, and other nefarious actors are not shying away from collecting your data. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
So, What Can You Do?
The good news is: you CAN do something to protect your privacy.
So let’s talk about how.
If privacy is the most important thing in your life then, unfortunately, you will have to ditch your smartphone. And that’s just the start.
Then, you will have to stop using standard computer software.
Instead, you would have to use a specialized, privacy-enhancing operating system, encrypt all digital communication by default at all times, avoid social media entirely, and stay offline as much as possible.
For most people (especially those who work online), this is simply not an option.
But, it’s also not necessary.
If you want to keep sensitive information private but are happy to share some private information with third parties or the public, you can do that.
So let’s look at some privacy-enhancing solutions that you should consider using when sharing sensitive information with friends, family, or associates.
Easy-to-Use Privacy Solutions for Everyone
The Signal app provides end-to-end encrypted messaging, phone calls, and video calls so that you can have private conversations without third-parties listening in.
Use Tor Browser when researching sensitive subjects or accessing applications that may be flagged or banned (for the wrong reasons) in your location.
Alternatively, you could also use a VPN to go online to perform sensitive tasks. However, make sure you pay for a provider that doesn’t collect logs and is located in a jurisdiction that generally respects privacy.
Use DuckDuckGo (ideally via Tor) instead of Google as your default search engine if you don’t want your search history data to be harvested and sold.
Use ProtonMail or another high-quality encrypted email service to exchange sensitive information via email.
Use the end-to-end encrypted video call app Jitsi instead of Zoom
Use PGP messaging to communicate privately over the internet. While Signal and ProtonMail have the average privacy-conscious individuals covered, PGP encryption is arguably the most private (albeit tech-heavy) way to communicate online.
Using encrypted cloud storage instead of Google Drive and Dropbox, encrypted file sharing instead of sending email attachments, and private-by-design online writing apps instead of Google Docs are additional privacy-enhancing options you can pursue.
And the list goes on.
My favorite privacy solutions resource is PrivacyTools.io. There, you can find a much broader list of products and services you can use to protect your privacy online.
Do You Need to Use All These Apps?
No, you don’t.
I don’t actually.
But I use many of them for different purposes.
I use end-to-end encrypted messaging apps when talking about sensitive personal matters with family.
I use a private email provider to log into cryptocurrency applications and platforms.
I use DuckDuckGo when researching sensitive subject matters that - taken out of context - could be used against me.
I use Jitsi for family video calls.
What I would like you to take away from this week’s newsletter is that your privacy is heavily under attack and if you aren’t aware of the privacy-enhancing alternatives of the apps you are currently using, there will be no such thing as online privacy for you.
Also, I would like to encourage you to download at least one of the mentioned privacy-enhancing apps (if you haven’t already) and test it out.
Peace, love & anarchy,