Preface It might come to a surprise to some of us that our privacy is being challenged by the very services we have depended on for years. Lets face it: Our government is spying on us. Our applications are spying on us. Our web browsers are spying on us. Our email services are spying on us. Our search engines are spying on us. I wasn't entirely shocked to learn of Google's sleeping arrangements with the NSA because I, like most everyone, have known for years that Google has been the biggest privacy offender on the internet. Google's hold is far reaching, spanning continents and uniting millions of web surfers everywhere. Google in itself represents an entire culture to which we are loyal servants. If you are anything like me, it should alarm you to know that your gmail conversations are being stored on a database somewhere for "safe keeping"; your web searches are used to build a profile on you. This information is sorted, processed, and stored. Make no mistake, you have no right to privacy anymore. It is time to take that right back. Due to the recent PRISM scandal that unfolded before us in the media recently, I decided to compile a list of alternatives, options, information, for you to use if you so desire to beat the system that is working against you. I am obviously an advocate for privacy. Where do you stand on the issue? i. Search Engine Alternatives: Ixquick is a search engine that promotes user privacy. https://ixquick.com/ There extensive privacy statement can be read at the link below. https://ixquick.com/eng/protect-privacy.htmlivacy.html [Broken] DuckDuckGo is another https://duckduckgo.com/ There extensive privacy statement can also be read at the link below. https://duckduckgo.com/privacy for free email alternatives, see this site below: http://www.csustan.edu/Stan4You/FreeWeb-BasedEmailServices/email_web.html ii. Anonymous Surfing Proxies Proxy servers and VPN services have become increasing popular over the last few months. I am going to give you a quick guide on what they are, what they do, and what the difference is between them. If your computer were a person, your computer's IP address would be that person's mailing address. It is an address that marks your computer's geographic location. Your IP address is everywhere: It is in your packet headers, your email headers. Your IP is stored in a log on every single web server you connect to. Exposing your naked IP to the internet is like wearing a sign that says "Here I am, this is where I live". A proxy server is a server that exists somewhere in cyberspace -often in another country- that acts as an intermediary between you and the internet. Using a proxy server effectively changes your IP address to that of the server's. This is the first layer of anonymity, and for most people, the only layer needed. There are many free proxy servers available to you. Configuration varies depending on your browser. Here is a resource to get you started: http://whatismyipaddress.com/using-proxies To find free proxies, simply search for "free proxies". Tor Tor is software designed to give you a more effective layer of anonymity- much more effective than a single, translucent proxy. Tor works by connecting you to an open network that bounces your traffic across multiple relays before reaching endpoint (the website you are requesting). By bouncing across hops -across the entire globe- not only is your IP masked, but your information is also encrypted along the way. The route that your traffic takes to reach the internet resets every ten minutes. The purpose of that is to make it impossible to link your activity to you through logs. It would take years for a government agency to trace you through said logs. And even if they tried, they would eventually reach a relay in a country that has no disclosure agreement. There are a few draw backs to using Tor. First, your data, while being re-encrypted at every relay, will not be re-encrypted at endpoint. Tor has a service included (Privoxy), however, that will scrub personal information from your packets. The second draw back is that Tor will bog your browser down. (It is slow). https://www.torproject.org/ VPN [/I] VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are a bit different than translucent proxies or Tor. A VPN is a client side program that makes a point-to-point connection through a secured "tunnel". The encryption capabilities of a VPN is far superior to that of Tor in that your information is encrypted at end point through various optional protocols. This keeps your information secure as it is transmitted from your computer to the web. VPN's are ideal for computing at wifi hotspots, be it a college university or your local coffee shop. The encryption will keep your information safe from "packet sniffing" and various man-in-the-middle attacks which are prevalent in public places. There are free VPNs for download, but I will not suggest any. I do not recommend free VPN services. If you are on the market for a trusted subscription to a VPN service, I recommend checking your Anti-Virus software first as most tend to have an optional one included (for a fee), For more information, see link below. http://www.whatismyip.com/what-is-a-vpn/ iii FireFox Addons I am an advocate for FireFox due to their addons. Here are some that I think are neato: Darkside of the Prism This addon will inform you every time you are on a website that is being monitored by the NSA. It will flash an icon on your screen and play "Money" by Pink Floyd (how cool is that?). Try it out. You might be surprised at how many pies the NSA has their fingers in. The Draw back to this is that the song will trigger every time you reload the page, and multiple songs will overlap if you hit a website that has additional services on it that is also being monitored by the NSA. I just enable it every-so-often and go around checking the websites I tend to visit and then switch it back off. BetterPrivacy BetterPrivacy will allow you to view, monitor, disable, and remove a new type of tracking cookie that is exclusive to Google (wow, they just love spying on us). https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/betterprivacy/?src=cb-dl-mostpopular Ghostery This addon handles all other types of cookies. It is easy to use, easy to understand. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/ghostery/?src=cb-dl-mostpopular Collusion This is new, experimental addon that has to do with 3rd party tracking cookies. It is cool to play around with. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/collusion/?src=cb-dl-featured [Broken] If I've left anything out, or if you have more suggestions, please share.