How to Protect Yourself and Your Data from Privacy Invasion Both On and Offline

James Keenan
Automation and Anonymity Evangelist   Smartproxy

American author Joseph Heller once said that “You’re not paranoid if they’re really after you” add to this “and they are using technology to do so” and then you will have today’s reality. Protecting yourself from Big Brother is becoming increasingly necessary as governments become more invasive and smarter in their use of technology. This is especially so when monitoring the population at large is performed under the guise of “protecting the public”. This will lead to dangerous unintended consequences, and it is imperative to protect yourself and your data from privacy invasion.

Online and Offline Surveillance

In years past, governments had difficulty understanding their population. Tracking every citizen was only a distant dream. Today, people take their smartphones with them everywhere. It is a useful tool for them, but it is also useful for governments as a whole. Smartphones confirm where you are every second of the day regularly pinging off the nearest cell tower. 

A Sea of CCTV Cameras

The citizenry is awash in a sea of CCTV cameras. The usefulness of this technology outweighs the potential complaints about privacy invasion. However, the real issue is when the moving image is paired with facial recognition software. This means that it is possible to match a face to a person and their smartphone. Any data collected on the device then reflects the person, not the device. 

Online Surveillance

The trouble with online surveillance is that it goes mostly unnoticed. Tapping into different information sources, governments can find out a lot about their citizens. Some of this information  is overshared by users on social media platforms, a trait of the younger generations, but one that is catching on with the older generation as well. Apart from social media platforms, metadata is gathered and eventually matched to individuals, and all under the guise of keeping everyone “safer”.

How to Become More Anonymous

To avoid being constantly surveilled, you must pay attention rather than ignoring surveillance completely. Here are some suggestions on how to proceed.

Protect Your IP Address

When using the internet on your smartphone or PC, every activity includes your IP address. What is an IP address? It’s a unique identifier that an Internet Service Provider (ISP) (be it your home broadband service or the cellular network) uses. It is sometimes dynamic and will change each time that you log on, and at other times it is a fixed IP address. The latter is worse, however, with the former, it is usually only picked from a small pool of similar ones. Therefore, it makes identifying the same user and their online activities easier.

To stay more anonymous, use a reliable proxy service such as Smartproxy. It can change your IP address to the one that doesn’t connect to your geographic location. Smartproxy has an advanced rotating proxies network. With this, you do not have to worry about rotating proxies yourself; Smartproxy does it for you! In this way, you will be able to hide your usage patterns on the internet more efficiently.

Encrypt Your Systems

It is always a good idea to encrypt your systems. For instance, a Windows PC user can use VeraCrypt, which encrypts your hard drive to avoid it being read if the PC is stolen or confiscated.  Macs are equipped with built-in encryption software. Mobile devices usually offer such options as well, however, you can  research third-party apps as they can also be useful. 

Keep Reliable Backups

Reliable backups can protect you from drive confiscation and also data corruption. Hard drives, solid-state drives, and more do not last forever. Regular backups protect from such failures, they limit the potential loss, and allow you to get back up and running quickly. 

China Has Started Using Facial Recognition for Minority Identification

China has often been criticized for its treatment of certain minority groups. However, now China is  coming under attack as the first major country that’s reportedly using facial recognition to keep tabs on a minority.

Millions of Uighurs live in the country and several cities are now using technology produced by private Chinese companies to recognize them by using CCTV and advanced scanning. Given the fact that Uighurs have distinctly different facial features than the Han population in China, it’s now possible to racially profile this minority group in-country for analysis and review.

This has scary consequences with the possibility of similar technology being used by other governments around the world. Thus, furthering the need to protect yourself and your data from privacy invasion both on and offline.

AI further threatens privacy invasion

Clearview AI, which few people have heard of, has developed Artificial Intelligence (AI) software that can match a photo of someone with available sources online, including YouTube and Facebook, etc.

The software has already been embraced by over 600 law enforcement agencies that have seemingly rushed to make use of it. Despite the very real privacy concerns being completely overlooked, this software has over a 3 billion images database that it can match to any picture and put a name to a face. And it reportedly offers up to 75% accuracy too. 

So, when you think that Big Brother is watching you… well… we have bad news for you, they are. And with street cameras that can often pick-up audio, they may be listening in too. 

Combating Privacy invasion, Surveillance and More

It’s time to consider how much information about yourself you should put on the web. Everything you say can be tracked and collated in a digital file. Whether that’s by private firms looking to target people with their ads or being targeted by government agencies, it is a complete privacy invasion and with a flimsy excuse for doing so. You must protect yourself and your data.

Maintaining strict data protection including encrypted devices, protecting your IP address by using a private proxy, and avoiding giving too much away is a great start. However, you can also do other basic things to avoid being surveilled in the first place. A good hoodie and a baseball cap can do wonders in a world populated by CCTV cameras. 

While you may not have realized how much your face is being matched to your identity or how much your data is being collected as a valuable resource, increasingly we are being reduced to mere digital information. Protecting yourself and your data from privacy invasion, mass surveillance and limiting what information you actively give out into the world is necessary given today’s hostile environment. 

James Keenan

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