More thoughts on computer privacy and anonymity

Given the contentious 2016 election and the renewed debate over government surveillance I decided to post a new page to the blog about how to maintain privacy and anonymity on the internet.  Follow this link to see the page.  The political environment in the US and around the world is not and has not been friendly to the privacy rights of individuals.  While total anonymity is impossible there are at least some steps everyone can take to secure sensitive data and make themselves harder to track.  Most people aren’t very technical and don’t think much about securing their private data when using computers and smart phones.  I’m hoping I can help those non-technical folks who are interested in protecting their privacy to do so. I really love what the EFF has to say about surveillance and I hope more people will read it.

It’s not just journalists or important people who should take their online privacy seriously.  The average citizen and political activists of all kinds should have a real interest in protecting themselves online.  The DNC hack/phishing attack in 2016 drives that point home.  In fact, anonymous speech can be crucial to a vibrant democracy.  When political and social pressure is brought to bear it can drive people to self censorship.  Social media makes it easy to find people with unpopular opinions and then ostracize or harass them.  Who wants to go out on a limb with a new idea if they know opponents of that idea will attack them personally?  If ideas are presented anonymously then maybe the idea will be judged without prejudice toward the originator of the idea.  The Federalist Papers were initially published anonymously to minimize personal discrediting attacks that might be leveled against certain individuals.  The Anti-Federalist Papers were done the same way.  Imagine that – a battle of ideas and arguments not personal attacks on individuals and their private scandals.

Private individuals should feel free to contribute to the public discourse and make their ideas known without fear of online harassment.  Knowing how to defend oneself online will boost confidence and lead to more political involvement.  Knowledge is power and technical knowledge is no exception.  In the times we live in such knowledge is paramount.  Educate yourself and engage with the online world in full force.  The bottom line is that if your are a political or social activist you owe it to  yourself to make your data secure and keep your private life private.