One of a libertarian’s worst nightmares is the truce between corporations and the government that allows privacy intrusion. It kind of makes you want to cover up your computer’s webcam in nervousness.

However, I get a small feeling of hope when a company takes steps to put a wedge between the individual user and the government. Just recently, Google increased its gmail security as a result of knowledge made public by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who disclosed that the government was indeed spying on it’s citizens.

According to CNN Money:

 As the New York Times explained last year, government spies have been tapping the fiber-optic cables between big tech companies’ data centers. Data typically travels unencrypted between giant computer server farms, allowing for easy interception.

But by encrypting the flow of data between company servers, Google has made that kind of mass collection technologically unfeasible.

“That should be effective,” said Mikko Hypponen, a top security researcher in Finland. “By protecting the connection between you and Google servers, they protect you against tons of attackers.”

Of course, there is a catch. The security improvement will only work if emails stay between gmail users. So good luck sending that anti-government email to a yahoo user and hoping the NSA doesn’t intercept it.

Apparently, Microsoft is also trying to beef up its security. Which is nice.

I’m still skeptical to the limits of a technology company, because I’m not sure how much they have to comply with the NSA and how much they can tell the public. And they are very late on informing their users of this intrusion.

At least the big tech companies are joining together to demand more transparency as a result of Snowden’s leaks. Thank goodness for Snowden. Without him, this secretive spying would have continued.

So now that it’s known that the tech giants knew about NSA spying, it’s time to continue to put them in the hot seat and let them know we demand some changes to protect our privacy. We can do what we can as individual users, but since many people are users of Facebook, Google, Apple and others — it’s going to take these companies continuing to use their influence in ways we cannot. Let’s just hope we can steer them on a path to strengthening liberty and win this fight.

And sometimes, the lesser of two enemies is the one you need to defeat the biggest enemy (which doesn’t work for voting, ha!). We have more sway with tech companies than we do the government. Although the government is supposed to represent the people, it’s painfully clear they won’t listen to us. However, as consumers of technology, we can make certain demands of these tech companies and they seem to be listening.

In the mean time, there are some things you can do to protect your privacy:

The Guardian lists five ways to protect yourself including using Tor to hide in a network, encrypting your communications and using encryptions. Know what can keep your stuff private and what won’t. And here are some ways to not only protect your computer but your mobile devices as well.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also created the Self-Defense Project for the individual user who wants to learn more about government surveillance and privacy protection. It’s incredibly informative and easy-to-read for people who aren’t tech geeks.

What are steps and tools you use to protect your privacy?

  • I had to snicker right up front; as an IT Project consultant for 15 years, I’ve always known how easy it is to hijack a PC and have kept a post-it note over my webcam lens for years except when I’m using it by choice.

    Encryption is key but their are many steps one can take to help preserve your privacy, from Bitmessage to bank cards. Another great resource is How To Vanish (http://www.howtovanish.com/)

    The Boot-Strap Expat
    http://thebootstrapexpat.com/