Private messaging isn’t really private, at least not unless you encode it. The people at bittorrent know a little more than most do about privacy- and have released a product called “Bleep” which is their entry into true, encrypted private messaging. Of course, both you and your friend have to have the same app installed and figure out a way to find each other.
Bleep functions on a peer-to-peer (or P2P) model, meaning that the messages are being sent directly from one user to the next. Without a middleman, it’s virtually impossible to tell who is talking to whom, and what they are saying. It also offers end-to-end encryption, making sure that your conversation stays truly private.
To get started with Bleep, all that is required is choosing a nickname. You can share your Bleep key (under Settings:Profile) wherever you like: forum post, twitter page, etc. And no one will have any of your other details. Optionally, you can verify your email addresses and mobile numbers with Bleep, which will let your friends discover you through Bleep when they open an account.
In Your Hands, Instead of the Cloud.
Bleep’s logo represents a folded note – a message passed directly, hand-to-hand. In our implementation, we keep messages and the encryption keys for images stored on your local device, not the cloud. For messages and metadata, there is no server for hackers to target and because you hold the keys, images can’t be leaked to haunt you later. We’ve solved serverless peer-to-peer messaging, including the ability to get offline friends your messages when they come back online.
The problem with snapchat’s privacy was a simple screen grab could end your privacy- or taking a photo of the device with another device- Bleep brings new levels of security with its “whisper mode”
For parts of a conversation that you’d like to keep temporary, tapping “Go to Whisper” on your phone sends messages and pictures that disappear from devices after they’ve been viewed (25 seconds); holding shift on PC and Ctrl on Mac while hitting send does this on your desktop. You can switch back and forth between normal and whisper messages seamlessly, so you don’t lose the flow of your conversation.
Screenshot, or Not?
Whisper messages have additional protection for screenshots. If a friend manages to capture the screen, they won’t be able to capture who said what, since nicknames are blocked out. And if you forget who you’re whispering with, you tap the “eye” to display the nickname, but the conversation gets blurred. They can capture the conversation or the sender, but not both at the same time.
No matter what- the old maxim holds true- once it’s on the internet- it’s never private.
You are being watched online, and it’s not just the NSA. All those products you visited on Amazon that show up in your Facebook feed- those are “remarketing” campaigns- built from tracking your browsing.
Emails you open from a retailer include tracking codes- so when you visit the site, they know who you are- and then customize the site to sell you more.
Or- want to scope out the competition? Why let them know you’ve been looking?
The easiest way to use Tor is to download the Tor Browser. This is a modified version of Firefox along with a bunch of other software that connects you to the Tor network.
Once you’ve downloaded the installer, you have two options: You can just install the software or you can check the installation file’s GPG signature first. Some people like to check the installation file to make sure they’ve downloaded the proper version of the browser and not something that’s been tampered with.
But checking the GPG signature is not a painless process and requires an additional software download. Nevertheless, if that’s something you’d like to do, the Tor Project has a how-to explaining what’s required.
There are also sites that allow you to do a one off anonymous cloak- like http://www.covertbrowsing.com/ go there, and browse away.
The other end of things is to use a private VPN network that unlinks you from your ISP’s IP. Most of these are services that you pay for- where you “tunnel” all your internet traffic to their servers that become your “home base” IP. Some have cute names, like www.hidemyass.com but, sometimes, that’s not really what they do: read this post: What everybody should know about HideMyAss
People use VPN in order to access content that’s not available on their continent- like Chinese nationals looking for information on democracy- or for American Football fan ex-pats who want to stream NFL games to Europe. Its traditional use is to be a secure way of connecting to their work from remote locations.
But, in the end, remember anything you do online is never private, no matter how careful you are.
Now that we know that George Orwell wasn’t far off when he wrote 1984 and that “Big Brother” is indeed capable of watching us, here are a few things to think about.
First of all- when Scott McNealy of Sun Micro systems said “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it” back in 1999, that was before Facebook, Google, YouTube, and iPhones.
Now, overshare is an epidemic and as we’ve seen from the Boston Marathon Bombing, the ability to triangulate images from people taking pictures, security cams, ATM cameras and who knows what else, in record time, shows that we are in fact living in a surveillance nation.
This very email, has the ability to see when you opened it, what you click on, how many times you open it. It could also be set to see who you forward it to. Some people are still amazed when they see this technology demonstrated, but it’s really old hat in Internet time. You can switch off HTML email and get straight text emails, but you’ll feel like you are in the stone age.
While people may love the Chrome browser from Google and Gmail, both are tools that Google uses to build a profile of you- ostensibly to custom tailor your experience. That means to give you better search results- and, to give them better ways to make sure the ads you see are most likely ones you click on. Want more privacy- use Firefox and enable do not track. Read more about that here: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/dnt/
Just be aware, that if you have a Google TV or an Android phone, you’ve also just invited Google right in.
But if you want all your browsing to be hidden, consider The Onion Router- or TOR: https://www.torproject.org/
Which hides you from everything. No more ads for “hot single women in Dayton over 50” for me- which are targeted purely by tracking my age, location and marital status from a bunch of different sources.
Are people really correlating all your data from different sites? Absolutely. It started long before the Internet- with credit reporting agencies, mail list sellers, and the government- that’s what the census is in essence.
The Internet has given us so many more ways to correlate data, and in close to real time. Not leaving a trail of everywhere you’ve been online is one thing, but here are some other things that track you:
If you are a registered voter, anyone can download your name, address, age and voting record, showing which elections you voted in and what party you are affiliated with. It’s on the Secretary of State website. What better way to get started? If you own property, the County has your information on your home, how much it cost, when you bought it, if your taxes are paid- unless you hid behind a shell corporation with an LLC.
If you’ve been married or divorced, there are records online, including the redacted details of your divorce- which can make for interesting fill in the blank.
If you’ve gotten speeding tickets or arrested- more records. Never mind the Bureau of Motor Vehicles registration- now we know what you drive too.
Facebook is your life on display
Facebook is one big hot-mess of data. Who your friends are (we may have data on them, and not about you) any personal information you post, where you posted it from (you change locations often, posting from other cities? Wow, we’ve got a traveller). Recently, I was talking to a Sheriff’s deputy who was looking for friends of a person to see where they were posting from so he could try to pick them up on a warrant.
Never mind the postings about privacy changes on FB- if you want privacy, start by shutting off your profile to be found by anyone, even if they have your email – and find your friends yourself, instead of letting them find you. Start in the privacy section at top right. Then, carefully check your other settings. Or better yet- don’t go on Facebook.
Your portable tracking device
But, that also means, don’t carry a cell phone. Even if you have location services off, your cell phone is still a trackable beacon by triangulating the signal it needs to connect to the network. Living without a cell phone for some people is a fate worse than death, for others- no big deal. Just be aware that our cars are becoming smarter too, and it’s not long before everyone of them is connected too. If you have OnStar, it’s already there.
One of the reasons Google maps could offer the best traffic info when it was the primary mapping on the iPhone was that they were tracking how fast your iPhone was moving through traffic. There are a lot more smart phones than GPS units on the roads today. And if that isn’t enough- now, there is a wrist watch from Seiko that adjusts to the correct time zone thanks to built in GPS http://seikousa.com /Astron
Going back to either Stan Lee or Voltaire: “with great power, comes great responsibility” the power to communicate to so many people has never been so easily available to all. We’ve seen with the latest “leaks” of secure information from Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, that one person can transform the conversation by publishing things to the Internet. Even if you choose to opt out, and drop out, ala Ted Kaczynski, you can still end up famous.
There may be zero privacy, but, the one thing to realize, is it applies to everyone from you and me, to 4 star generals/CIA directors, so, don’t get too depressed. Just be aware of what it means and how you can avoid doing something stupid.