Back in 1949 the world was still recovering from World War II. The Korean War wouldn’t start for another year, but George Orwell was already focused on the dangers of communism and the totalitarianist government it builds. World War II was started by totalitarian governments; but worse than that was how such governments treat the citizens living under their control.
In his book 1984, the government, encapsulated in the persona of “Big Brother,” knew everything about everyone; where they were, what they were doing and even what they were thinking much of the time. This was used to keep control of people to an extreme that even the now defunct Soviet Union couldn’t reach. Yet with modern technology, the reality of such a government could very well be forming around us and we don’t even see it happening.
As we know, the government is actively spying on every one of us. That’s the essence of Edward Snowden’s message, since he left the employ of the NSA. While that spying is intended to help prevent terrorism, we’ve seen some in government be awfully free in their use of that term. One can quickly find themselves labeled as a terrorist if the political winds blow the wrong way.
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On top of the NSA, big tech is in cahoots with government in a number of ways, most especially with providing information to law enforcement officers, as they seek to solve crimes. But that same information which is being used for the good of tracking down and convicting criminals can very well be used against the rest of us. After all, any of us can become an instant felon, simply by Congress passing a law making something that has been legal, suddenly illegal.
An excellent case in point is the current push by Democrats to restrict our Second Amendment rights. Should they do that, then millions of law-abiding citizens will suddenly be faced with the option of turning in valuable firearms or hiding them from the government. Will the government hunt down those who haven’t turned in their guns, using the same tools they are currently using to track down criminals? Only time will tell.
So, what can we do to keep the government from having an idea where we are and what we are doing? To start with, we need to understand that the government has multiple means of tracking us, not just one or two. That means we’re going to have to defeat them all, if we expect to protect ourselves from electronic spying.
Here are a few places to start.
Use a Burner Phone
The easiest way for the government to track any of us is through our smartphone. We really don’t have a handle on everything that our phones are doing in the background, while we’re not looking.
Yet there’s nearly constant communication between our phones and the local cell phone tower.
It’s clear that the communications we have through our phones is readily available to the NSA and others.
You can even pay online services to do a little spying on family members, seeing their text messages, who they’ve talked to, what they’ve looked at online and where they’ve been. If you and I can do this, then you can be sure the government can do more.
Shut Off GPS Tracking
One of the most common ways our phones help the government keep track of us is through the phone’s GPS. Google and Apple keep track of our every move through that part of the phone.
If you go to Google Maps and click on your timeline in the menu, it will show you everywhere you’ve been, for the last several years.
Related: How To Cleverly Use A GPS Tracker
This feature alone could put you in danger if you just happen to be in the same place that a crime was committed. While that alone wouldn’t be enough to convict you; it would be enough to make you a suspect.
And that’s just one example of how the GPs could be used against you. What if they want to track you down because it has been reported that you said something against the government; they’d have no trouble tracking you down.
Clean Out Internet Browsing Activity and Cookies
One of the big ways that companies use the internet to keep tabs on us is through our browsing history and the cookies downloaded to our computers by the various websites we visit.
A lot can be learned about who we are and what we do by looking at that. That’s why major corporations invest so much in data mining, looking for people to buy their products.
Haven’t you seen how you can look at something online, then find advertisements for the same sort of product showing up in your Facebook feed and just about any online article you read?
That information is also admissible in court as a means of defining your character. Government prosecutors could build a totally false narrative about you as a terrorist or planning mass murder, backed up by no more than the websites you have visited. Simple curiosity can and will be used against you, perhaps even in a court of law.
Get Rid of Alexa, Siri, and other Voice-recognition Assistants
One of the key elements of Orwell’s imaginary society in 1984 was that the government was tracking what everyone was doing through their television sets.
Yet today, rather than the government having to hide that capability in our TV sets, we buy devices and use them in our homes.
Those devices track everything we do, listening in on our conversations, so that they can “serve us” better.
Employees of those companies have come forth, confessing how employees at big tech companies listen in on people’s private lives.
If they’re doing it, then the government has access to it too. Remember, everything that device does goes over the internet and the NSA is tapped into that thoroughly.
Create Alternative e-Mail Accounts for Memberships
Our online identity is largely tied into our e-mail account.
Pretty much everything you sign up for, from buying dog food to looking at different sites, involves creating an account using that e-mail address. That online presence can lead government agents to look into all areas of your online existence.
The solution is to create multiple ‘personas,’ utilizing them for different things.
In order to do this, you’re going to have to provide false information at some point, as pretty much all e-mail services try to verify that you’re a real person and that you’re who you say you are.
Create Site-specific Passwords
Passwords are the bane of modern existence, with more and more websites requiring a membership and password for access. Even those that don’t are likely to require you setting up an account to buy anything.
The information attached to that account Is just one more source for the government to look at.
Most of us pick a password and use it for as much as we can. The problem with that is that once someone figures out your password, they can try it on a variety of different platforms, trying to access your account and see what you’ve been doing.
Four different products, bought from different vendors, could easily become the parts of a bomb in some investigator’s imagination.
Keep in mind that the government employs hackers too; they’re called “white hat hackers,” and while that term was originally coined in regards to people who were trained in hacking in order to play the “red team” in online security simulations, it’s used for any hacker who does their work as part of “legitimate” business.
Of course, as far as the government is concerned, anything they do is legitimate, regardless of what the law says.
We’ve already discussed how the NSA is recording and reading every bit of communications that flows across the internet. That includes your e-mail. They know if you’re making an inquiry about buying a new home, having an online affair or discussing business secrets.
According to Snowden, some of those government employees are looking over people’s shoulders, watching their lives as if it were a live soap opera.
The world’s best code breakers work for the NSA and the majority of the world’s supercomputers are housed in their facilities. So the idea that they can’t break into an encrypted e-mail is ridiculous. Nevertheless, encrypting still makes it harder, meaning that they’d have to have a pretty good reason to bother.
While not perfect, encrypting your e-mail at least protects you from casual view.
Avoid Online, Credit Card and Debit Card Purchases
Probably one of the earliest ways that law enforcement used the benefits of the internet to solve crimes is through tracking credit card use. We’ve all seen cop shows where they tracked a suspect by looking at where they were using their credit card. That’s child’s play for the government today.
Of course, the government isn’t the only one tracking our online purchases, although I don’t think that companies have the ability to get into the records of our credit and debit card usage like the government can.
Either way, it can provide the government with a lot of information that you might not want them to know. Better to use cash and keep your transactions anonymous.
If you’ve got to buy things online, then use prepaid Visa and MasterCard gift cards, not associated with any bank account you have.
You can buy these easily at the checkout in many major stores, in denominations up to $500. That makes it possible to make a lot of purchase anonymously.
Then have the item shipped to an address that can’t be readily traced to you, like a PO box that you rented using a false address.
Don’t Fill Out Profile Data
One of the easiest ways for the government, criminals, companies and just about anyone else has of getting information about any of us is through our online profiles.
Social media has encourages people to live an open life, with everything about them becoming common knowledge. But that information can become dangerous if it gets into the wrong hands.
Save that information, so that you can give it to who you want to, rather than whoever wants it.
While it might not be quite as “neighborly” in the online community, holding that information back could help protect you from the government or from criminals.
One Final Thought
Doing the things I’ve mentioned in this article are likely to have unintended consequences. That is, they’re likely to make you look suspicious to anyone investigating you.
But then, if you haven’t done anything wrong, it really doesn’t matter how suspicious they think you look. They still have to find evidence, not suspicion, in order to take any action against you.
Your ready answer to this suspicion should be that you are protecting yourself from criminals. Even government agencies recommend taking precautions for that reason, so by stating that, you’re throwing the onus back on them. If they don’t like that, it’s just too bad.