The Government Is Watching You: 8 Ways to Disappear Online

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If you've been watching the news lately, you know that your private online communications may not be so private. It's unclear exactly what data is collected by the NSA's PRISM surveillance program, but it's very existence has left many U.S. citizens feeling betrayed. In fact, according to a recent CNN poll, 6 in 10 people believe that the government is so large and powerful that it threatens the rights and freedoms of ordinary Americans.

Fortunately, there are ways users can take their privacy into their own hands, protecting their online activities and communication and telling the government to take a hike. From services that completely mask your online traffic to digital currencies that cannot be traced, here are eight tools that can protect against prying eyes.

The Government Is Watching You: 8 Ways to Disappear Online

Silent Circle

President Obama has admitted to collecting the metadata from call records, but there's some speculation that even more data is being harvested by the NSA. If you're uncomfortable with the thought that all your mobile communication records might be residing on a government server somewhere, check out Silent Circle.

Users can make encrypted voice calls, video chats, texts and emails with a Silent Circle subscription, which starts at $10 per month. The app is available for both iOS and Android, allowing anyone to lock down their mobile communications.

More: Best Android Security Apps 2013

Tor Project

When you really need to protect your online privacy, you can route your traffic through the secure Tor network. Originally created for the U.S. Navy, Tor now provides protection against prying eyes to anyone who downloads and installs the free Tor software bundle. Much like you'd use a twisty and hard-to-follow route in order to lose a pursuer, Tor traffic is routed through a distributed, anonymous network that neatly erases your footprints along the way. You'll still need to be careful about the information that you reveal and files you download, but Tor can guarantee that the transport of data will be completely secure if used properly.

More: 10 Best Android Apps You're Not Using

DuckDuckGo

You searched for for My Little Pony figurines just once, but now Google shows nothing but rainbow-related ads whenever you go online. If you're sick of targeted search results and advertising that makes you feel like you're constantly being watched, it may be time to switch to the search engine DuckDuckGo . 

Unlike other search engines, DuckDuckGo doesn't collect or share any personal information so, if the government makes a search history request, there will be no information to hand over.

More: 3 Facebook Privacy Settings to Tweak 

Tor Mail

It may be time to switch to an anonymous email service if you're worried about the security of your online correspondence. If you're connected to the Tor network, you can start using hidden services such as Tor Mail (website can only be accessed using Tor). Users don't need to provide any identifying information to sign up for a free account, and the email servers are hidden behind relays and the secure Tor network. The service even supports SMTP, POP3 and IMAP access, although you should verify that your connection is secure if you choose to access your email through one of these protocols.

More: Why You Need to Use Encrypted Email

Mega File Storage

Kim Dotcom is back after the infamous raid and take-down of his previous website, Mega Upload. The new service is simply dubbed Mega and the embattled CEO has apparently learned a lot from its mistakes. Unlike other cloud storage solutions, Mega uses multiple encryption layers, including the use of browser-based JavaScript, to mask the contents of every file. Even if the Mega traffic was monitored, there'd be no way of knowing the contents or names of the files being transferred.

More: What’s the Fastest Cloud Storage Service?

PGP Encryption

If you want to guarantee that the only person who can read your message is the intended recipient, you can wrap your message or note in some secure PGP encryption. Short for Pretty Good Privacy, PGP encryption uses a free computer program to mask the contents of a message using a serial combination of hashing, data compression, symmetric-key cryptography and public-key cryptography. There is quite a bit of a learning curve with PGP encryption, but once you hide your message behind PGP, it will be nearly impossible to intercept.

More: Be Smart: Apps to Stop Texting and Driving

Burner Phone

The Burner app allows users to purchase a temporary phone number with communication still occurring on the user's main phone. For real privacy, you can get the $75 Burner Phone, which may not have the apps and features of iOS or Android, but offers 16 hours of talk time, a month of standby and unlimited talk and texting for 30 days. A Burner Phone [slideshow id="137499"][slideshow id="210147"]can even be purchased with Bitcoins, ensuring that you have absolutely no tie to this disposable phone.

More: Top 10 Smartphones

Bitcoins

You can't use cash for online purchases, but the new digital current Bitcoin is the next best thing. Unlike other currencies, which are either commodity backed, like the gold standard, or politically backed, like the Federal Reserve, Bitcoins are mathematically backed by complex computer algorithms.

Additionally, Bitcoin transactions are virtually untraceable, much like cash exchanges, allowing users to purchase goods or services online without leaving a trace. Also, with an increasing number of companies that accept bitcoins, completely switching to this anonymous online currency is becoming more viable every day.

More: What is Bitcoin?

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