2013 it was revealed that the NSA had been recording, cataloging and spying on just about every human being on earth. With the majority of spying being done on it’s own citizens. Now, perhaps what had been unclear for many people, myself included, was what and who was being spied on. See I thought “well, it’s not so strange that Merkel is being spied on, she is after all a high ranking official.” You could make the argument that it’s a US ally, but in reality, the US doesn’t really have Allies, just servants to the corporate interests of the USA. (as per the Wikileaks documents). I also thought in my ignorance that only brown people named Mohammed are spied on. This of course is the ignorance that most people suffer from. Or atleast most middle class white people.
We don’t really know how to respond or feel about racial disparities, because we rarely if ever experience them. Instead we are able to live confidently within our false bubble of white persecution because nobody has a voice loud enough to snap us out of our delusion.
Anyway after watching an interview with Ed Snowden I started to think “well, I’m glad I don’t have any secrets that I wouldn’t want out” – so this spying doesn’t apply to me of course.
I then started to think about the American corporatacracy, or for lack of creativity the United corporations of America. Since America, as most people would agree has very little to do with it’s people and democratic ideals, and more to do with Capitalism and the corporate oligarchy. (more on this later) And on top of that I just happened to read a book on the Stalinist Russia and puzzle pieces just started to fall into place. I don’t want to go into a 50 page essay on Stalinist Russia, but what really stuck out was this: At the height of the “communist” regime it was believed that as many as 1 in every 20 people where spies for the state. Think about that, no matter where you went or what you did, there was a big chance somebody was watching you and every transgression you may or may not do.
This acted as a form of power, the Russian people didn’t rebel because they had simply censored themselves and their thoughts. They didn’t dare transgress from the rule of state, because there was always somebody watching. Now, put that together with the modern day spy network, the NSA and Russian, Chinese equivalents and it starts to get a bit interesting. Think about it, the question is not “if” you are being spied on and your data collected, indexed and stored, what we learned from the Snowden files is that this is a “Fact”. Anything you write, say, text or record is being listened to, stored and filed away for future use. Not the guy named Mohammed, but you.
Do I have any secrets when put into that context? Of course. Everybody does. Maybe I don’t have secrets from my wife, but perhaps I have secrets that I prefer my place of employment to not know about? Perhaps I have secrets I wouldn’t want my friends to know about. To put plainly I have “pressure points” that could be used to manipulate me into doing something or to basically make sure I don’t do something, to keep those secrets quiet. I’m almost positive that you too, have those pressure points, if you think hard enough. Imagine politicians, and how easily they could be manipulated with the right pressure points – considering politicians in todays society run more on “what people think of me” than policies. Freedom does not exist in that context. I will purposely censor myself and my free speech, as would most people.
I like to think that some of the stupid, obviously hurtful policies that the Swedish politicians have forced down our throats here in Sweden; where in fact made by politicians put into a hard place by governments using these said pressure points. (which we also found backing within the Wikileaks)
On top of this we have a state in the USA that is very much under the control of corporations with the citizens united act among the many, many other policies that have stripped the average American of their rights and put the power firmly in the hands of the Oligarchy.
Now, what is to prevent the next president or congress to use those “pressure points” on a mass swath of the populace? There are no laws that will prevent it, data like this is not collected to simply be ignored. What is stopping congress from selling said data, to the very corporations that helped them get elected?
I could go on and on, but I feel my point is made. I never made an agreement the USA or any government for the matter where I said it was ok to collect all my thoughts, phone calls, texts and so on. I was never presented with that arrangement. So I will do my best to opt out. It’s not easy of course, all the companies making backdoors for the NSA happen to be some of the largest companies in the world:
Microsoft (skype, linkedin, windows)
Pretty much any and all ISP providers in the USA, and by proxy the west world
AT&T, Vodaphone, Telia
The task in other words is pretty daunting.
However, if I can prevent just a portion of my data from being collected I will feel better off. If I could wake up everyday and know that the NSA is spending millions on trying to break my secrecy, only to find out all my secret data amounts to “good night my love” – then I will sleep happy knowing I gave a big middle finger to a corrupt system that I certainly don’t approve of.
My goal is to make only what I want available to the public (governments included) Facebook, Instagram, youtube and my blog for example. What I put there I already know the government owns. Everything else is mine.
So some of the changes I have made:
I signed up for a VPN program called F-Secure. This basically just routes my data to wherever I want. So for example, today my IP my trace back to Russia, tomorrow central USA, after that Slovakia and so on. It’s a lot more complicated than this of course, but it’s the jist. F-secure even allows me to connect in the same manner with my iPhones and computers (one service for all)
I changed my browser to Tor – also making it just a bit harder to track my presence on the web (this is used by many activists and journalist to avoid prosecution for example)
Update on Tor: I think this is a great browser for the “Dark web”, but using on the regular internet become a chore as most sites will require that you go through CAPCHA process over and over. TO be honest the amount of depravity to be found with TOR is rather off putting and I think for most people running Firefox through a VPN is more than enough protection.
Skype and whatsapp have now been replaced by Wire private messenger (swiss based company with high encryption and excellent user interface)
Email has been changed from gmail to Protonmail.com (also swiss company with high encryption on an open platform)
Search engine from google to duckduckgo.com – google tracks and stores data
From Dropbox to Owncloud.com (I still use dropbox but for files and data I don’t mind being available to the public)
My computer is always offline except for when I want to surf – then I run through the VPN f-secure and use Tor as my browser.
My Ipad is always on a VPN and Red onion as my Tor browser
All of my private data, photos and so on are stored on a USB connected SSD drive that is only plugged in when I need it.
I figure that since we know this data collection is a fact, not a question of if, then paranoia isn’t really the proper word. I would say, that taking appropriate steps to avoid not just the NSA from collecting my private data, but anyone from collecting my data is probably a wise decision in today’s world.
Since I am a complete beginner when it comes to online security and secrecy, I won’t pretend to actually know what I am doing. Maybe all of this is in vain and the NSA already has malware and other hacking tools that make my efforts pointless… Who knows, I just like the thought of big brother having a bitch of a time to find my “pressure points”.
Perhaps if I had really “deep” secrets I would move over to a completely offline computer, use dumb phones or pigeons and run linux off a USB stick. But I’m ok with the steps I have taken.
If you would also like tips and strategies to opt out of the international spy games, I found www.prism-break.org to be a great resource.