Lifehacker has a nice summary of the recently exposed (and some not so recently exposed) large scale internet spying by the NSA. I’d like to tell you that a VPN resolves all your privacy concerns, but I can’t based on the allegedly complicity of firms like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! What good is a secure connection if all the data is going out the back door to the feds?
Finally, let’s talk about VPNs and private networks like Tor. They’re probably your best option to keep your communications private, and we’ve talked about how to choose a good,trustworthy VPN before. Still, they’re not perfect. VPNs and Tor will protect you from someone monitoring your traffic, but not someone monitoring the service you’re using, which is the issue here. Encrypting your way to Google is great if someone’s watching your communications to and from Google, but if someone’s sitting at Google watching what you’re doing, you’re boned.
Though all is not lost or pointless. Its been alleged that the NSA has been tapping or hacking internet backbone routers. In this case a VPN is your best protection against this “man in the middle” attack. The only caveat is that allegedly the NSA will retain encrypted data indefinitely.
In the end the only real solution to a state actor like the US government violating your privacy is to change the law
to make these searches proportional and appropriate and frankly bring them into compliance with the US Constitution. The fourth amendment states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Pretty straightforward right? I don’t see a clause in there stating that all your papers may be copied and retained indefinitely in case they get a warrant later to look at them or until a bored analyst wants to check them out looking for sweet porn.
But then again to quote Stephen Colbert, “If you’re doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide from the giant surveillance apparatus the government’s been hiding.”