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For me – protecting your privacy and urban disaster survival go hand in hand. I don’t think that when you are prepping you can ever forget the importance of maintaining your privacy.
It seems that one of the areas that we have lost the most privacy is our on-line Internet and mobile phone use.
Secret Phone Tapping Technology
The device – called a Stingray, can monitor the phone calls and messages that people make. But no one seems to want to say too much about how the device works or how large an area it can monitor.
The device is reportedly designed to trick cell phones into believing that it is a legitimate cell phone tower. When the device is turned on it can capture texts, emails, phone calls, and location data of suspects but also of anyone else that happens to be in the area where it is operating.
It then send the signals on to legitimate cell towers without the cell phone owner or the cell phone company being any the wiser about what is happening.
The device, small enough to fit in a suitcase, is so shrouded in secrecy, that in order to buy the device agencies must sign a non-disclosure agreement that requires them to avoid saying anything about the technology or how it works.
The reason for this, according to the FBI is that disclosure of how the device works could allow criminals and terrorists to circumvent the device.
Because the device is so secret there is also no known way to protect your privacy from it, unless you are willing to give up your cell phone.
Protecting Your Privacy In E-Mails/Texts/Searches
There was another recent article that cited a survey by the Pew Research Center where more than half the people that were questioned expressed concern about government spies prying into their private e-mails, texts, and searches.
But the survey also found that very few were actually taking any steps to protect themselves.
According to the survey the main reason that people don’t try to protect their on-line privacy is because they don’t know how.
In a quote to the Associated Press, Mary Madden, a senior researcher for the Pew stated: “It all boils down to people sort of feeling like they have lost control over their data and their personal information, but at the same time, when we asked them if they would like to do more, folks expressed that as an aspirational goal.”
So, here are some steps you can take to protect your privacy when you are online.
Hide Your Searching
I’m sure that you have had the same experience that I have where you search for something and that product keeps popping up in ads where ever you go.
It’s well known that the big search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo all collect and study your queries so they can learn what kinds of products and services could appeal to you so they can sell advertising that is targeted to your interests.
It a legitimate commercial use of the information and can be beneficial to both you and to the companies that advertise on-line.
But that doesn’t mean that this data is protected form the NSA or others that would want to use this information for other purposes.
The good news is that there is a small search engine upstart called DuckDuckGo that is gaining a lot of users with it’s pledge to never collect personal information or track its users.
Scramble Your E-Mail
You may not realize it but any e-mail that you send in plain text can be read by others. E-mails travel from your computer to the recipient by going over various secure and unsecure networks and servers.
These servers can make a copy of your e-mail and pretty much anyone who has access to them can read your e-mail.
We tend to think that the e-mail we send our computers is private but in truth it’s not. Everyone from the government to hackers, jealous exes, or the company that you work for could be reading your e-mail.
All you have to do is think about the revelations that the NSA is monitoring phones and e-mails and the fiasco at Sony when their e-mail system was hacked to see that encrypting your e-mail might be a good idea.
If you are like me there is a lot of information that goes in e-mails that I would not want to be public.
Whether it is proprietary business letters, account and banking information, or just things that would be embarrassing personally, now more than ever you should be concerned about who might be reading your messages.
The good news is that there are encryption programs like Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) that you can use to encrypt your e-mails and make them look like gibberish to anyone not authorized to read them.
Drop The Internet
Even though the Pew poll mentioned above shows that 14% of the people that were surveyed are meeting face to face more rather than using phone, text, or e-mail because of privacy concerns there are still a lot of situations where that one on one meeting is not practical or convenient.