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How to avoid the UK’s new online surveillance powers

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT

Although the UK government has lost it’s case in the EU court please don’t think it will simply give up and go away, that’s not what they do when they seek to control and there are always ways around most court rulings. Our government employs experts to look at ways they can get to you, at you and inside your head, the easiest way these days is just to follow you on line. We all know the dangers of things like Face Book, what you say or display in picture there will be around in one form or another and will, as the younger members of our society find out in years to come, come back to haunt them. If you must display your life on line for all and sundry to see then you are asking for all the problems you will get. Better to be wise, we did before the internet get around with out recording our every activity and sharing it with total strangers, why do we feel the need to do it now? I am just posing the questions, I’m not interested in the answers as those who live by social media will surly die by it.

Just writing blogs like this leaves one open to trolls and other agencies to keep an eye on what you do and what you think so unless you are able to live with this and not really care about the fact of being hacked or followed then continue with your open life style.

For those who take their privacy seriously then we reprint, in part a very good article from The Verge. Read it and digest it as it may come in useful to you one day. Take particular note of the section referring to FREE services. They are NEVER FREE, they all take something from you, usually information, this goes for Google, Amazon, Ebay, PayPal and all the rest. Every time you search for something or buy something online it adds to an over all picture of you. So, don’t be paranoid, be careful but also be sure, someone is watching.

AVOID ONLINE SURVEILLANCE

The UK is about to pass into law sweeping surveillance legislation that will force ISPs and mobile operators to keep a complete record of every citizen’s browsing history for up to a year. This information will be accessible without a warrant to intelligence services, the police, and a number of other government agencies — including, bizarrely, the likes of the Gambling Commission and the Food Standards Agency.

While much of the legislation is concerned with how the government can track down serious criminals like terrorists and child abusers, it’s the wholesale collection of every citizen’s web activity that has a lot of people worried. After all, there’s very little oversight about how the information is accessed, and it’s private companies that have to store the data, there is a good chance it will get stolen by hackers at some point. (If this sounds too pessimistic, remember that in the last year alone, there have been two major attacks in the UK stealing customer data from the ISP TalkTalk and the mobile operator Three.)

So, if you’re a UK citizen who doesn’t want their browser history to end up in a government vault, how do you protect yourself?

USE A VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK

This is really the simplest advice for anyone looking to use the internet with a little more privacy. A VPN or Virtual Private Network is a service that passes your internet traffic through different servers around the world. Not all VPNs are created equal, though, and companies differ on whether or not they encrypt that traffic, or whether they keep logs of users’ activity. (This doesn’t mean recording browser history, per se, but can include basic information like “computer with IP address X used our VPN network for Y hours on Z day.”)

You’ll have to pay for a VPN to get a good one

Ed Johnson-Williams, a member of the UK’s Open Rights Group, and someone who briefs journalists and NGOs on how to avoid surveillance for a living, says that if you want quality, you should expect to pay for your VPN. In the UK this could cost between £25 and £40 a year. “That is an investment that you just have to make if you want to take privacy seriously,” says Johnson-Williams. There are free VPNs available, but he advises against them. “A free VPN company will itself probably be analyzing what sites you’re looking at, or inserting its own advertising into your webpages to make money,” he says.

The website TorrentFreak publishes a yearly survey of VPNs, and asks them questions about what information they store on their customers, where they store it, and how they deal with government requests for data. As the survey shows, most paid-for VPNs don’t keep logs and don’t hand over data, but at the bottom of the page you can find a list of companies you’ll probably want to stay away from. Some popular paid services include NordVPN, AirVPN, and Private Internet Access.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Although the police are not going to be picking up your phone conversations, or the content of your chats in Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp (not without hacking your phone anyway, and they’ll need a warrant for that), you might want to start using a more secure messaging app all the same. Experts agree that the best pick is Signal, which not only offers secure one-to-one conversations, but also group chat, and voice calling. You can download for iOS here or for Android here.

The advice in this article certainly won’t protect anyone against determined government surveillance. If the security services of the UK — or any other nation for that matter — want to hack your phone or your computer, there’s really very little you can do to stop them. But, if you simply object on principle to the idea of being watched online constantly, you might want to follow some of these steps all the same. It’s up to you.

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