Journalists and citizen bloggers have much to worry about in terms of online privacy in today’s world.
I’m not only talking about the scary aspect of the FBI, GCHQ, and NSA tracking everything we do. I’m not even talking exclusively about Google tracking everything you do. There is all of that, plus the threat of hackers and other competitors who want to track you, find dirt on you, and use it against you.
Good thing, you can take back your online privacy using various tools and tactics. The majority of this will come from one particular type of tool. There are also additional tactics to maximize your privacy.
Let’s first take a look at what you will be using to get online privacy as a journalist: encryption. You must use it in some form anytime you are doing any sort of research or communication about a story online.
The first thing you should learn about encryption is that it happens every single time you visit almost any website. If you see a little green lock on the left side of your address bar, you know that this website uses encryption. This is useful when you are filling out forms or entering login details. It’s not good for much else, but it’s a start. It just lets you know that encryption is something that you already use.
Why encryption is important
Encryption is going to take any text you enter and scramble it so that only the person who has the key can read it. Anyone who is trying to intercept your data while it is encrypted will not be able to read it. This will include the government, rivals, hackers, and extremist political activists.
Using encrypted communication
For basic encrypted communication, you need to encrypt the data which tells the websites you visit. While that little green lock will not let anyone see the specific pages you visit, people will still know what websites you are on. When you are doing important research, this metadata could easily leak your intentions.
There are two tools which can help you achieve this:
- TOR: The Onion Router is an encrypted browser. It’ll encrypt everything that you are doing in your browser. It routes your traffic through a series of routers around the world, but the connection can be a bit slow because of this. It is not recommended for watching videos.
- VPN: These are tools which encrypt everything that you do on your computer. This includes your browsing as well as any file that you are downloading. They encrypt everything on your computer and route through the server of the VPN provider. You can find quality providers for anywhere from around $3 to $10 per month.
The most basic aspect of any online privacy strategy starts with one of these tools. A VPN is going to offer you greater flexibility. You can try out TOR if you wish; it will still give you good results.
Increasing your email privacy
Most modern email providers collect an incredible amount of data. Many of them are known for collaborating with government agencies. To prevent this, you first need to be connected to your VPN or use TOR. Then you need to choose one of the following email providers:
The last one—Guerilla Mail—is a temporary, disposable email provider. You can use this for your most private of communications that you do not want to be associated with any of your other emails. When you set this up, please be smart enough to know that you cannot associate it with any of your actual email accounts. Nor should you use Guerilla Mail on your main smartphone.
Other apps for private chatting are discussed below.
Private chatting apps
The first private chatting app that I will look at is called Cryptocat. It is an open source program (free to use) that will allow you to build your encrypted chat room. Here are some other interesting facts:
- This is a browser extension.
- It is available on Safari, Chrome, or Firefox.
- It can be set up through Facebook chat or Gchat.
- Create the chat room, and send the name to your friends for them to join.
The trick is making sure that you hide the name when you share it. Still, I recommend that you go analog. Or speak to people in person when possible.
Mobile messaging apps
When you want to have ongoing chats that are encrypted, there are three tools that you can use. All three have end-to-end encryption:
These are great tools to use anywhere you go, especially if you are using public Wi-Fi. Public places are great places for hackers to infiltrate communications. These apps can also help the people that you are communicating with if they do not understand online encryption.
This doesn’t have anything to do with the encryption. It has to do with the fact that even standard browsers are trying to track you online. Moreover, cookies are placed on your browser so that private companies can track your activities.
A private browser will help you get around both of these issues. Here are the three best private browsers to use:
If for whatever reason you can’t download these private browsers, you can take advantage of the private browsing mode of your current browser. The goal of private browsing is to delete your browsing history once you close the browser. You can find it somewhere in the browser’s settings. It’s a ‘better than nothing’ option.
no need 🙂https://t.co/Rtr8xjXIEo
read the privacy section
can make your browser ff/chrome just as private as TOR 🙂
— E Yakawitz (@EYakawitz) September 19, 2017
Journalists and political bloggers deserve online privacy
This article would not have been written in a perfect world. Your online privacy should not be threatened by your government, hackers, or political opponents on a seemingly endless cycle. You can no longer assume that the communications you use online are private.
The tactics above will certainly help you. If you think your most important information is still exposed to potential hacking, then consider going old school and take your notes on a piece of paper. This method is unhackable, and this is the last step in securing yourself as a journalist or citizen blogger in today’s world. Don’t neglect your roots.