Over the past month, investigative journalists interviewing former security-contractor-become-whistleblower Edward Snowden discovered that the big nine U.S. Service Providers (Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple) signed nondisclosure agreements to provide internet metadata to the National Security Agency (NSA).
The “collect it all” mentality including Verizon telephony metadata originally meant to target terrorists but expanded to include all domestic callers is revolutionizing the way people communicate, conduct business, and socialize on the internet.
In fact, many protestors at the July 4, 2013 Restore the Fourth Amendment rally at McPherson Square in Washington, DC were handed white slips of paper with www.prism-break.org printed in large bold font.
A visit to the Prism-Break website reveals a long list of alternative programs and add-ons (apps) which promise to provide greater security.
Here is a peek at just of few of the programs and apps which can be easily incorporated from a visit to Prism-Break with its cafeteria-style table of comparisons between proprietary products versus sophisticated alternatives. Enhancing ease in comparisons are recognizable logos, links, and notes. (SEE STEPS)
In addition to alternative web browsers, alternative search engines, and security add-ons, Prism-Break also offers at least six alternative email services for those concerned about email security. It advertises fifteen specialty email encryption and applications ensuring privacy and security in email communications. This concern is indeed real in this age when corporate spying, and labor turnovers are routine, and when political reporting or activism can lead to imprisonment.
“Every foreign journalist I know in China uses a VPN,” stated one Western journalist interviewed by Chris Clayton, author of “Hidden in Plain Sight,” in Sky magazine. “VPNs, multiple SIM cards and the secure email service Hushmail to protect sources” are used as cloaking devices by criminals as well as foreign correspondents and political revolutionaries.
Clayton did point out that speed and ease in use may have to be sacrificed through having to recall additional routines and procedures.
And to be sure, Prism-Break, the brain child of Peng Zhong also has its critics. Alexander Hanff, a globally respected privacy expert, writes that the website is misleading because we would never know if these companies are served writs. In “List is dangerously misleading,” he writes:
It is also important to note that no matter what these organizations tell you, you cannot take it as guaranteed truth because under these legal orders they are almost always subject to a legal ‘gag’ which can result in prison terms should they disclose they have received such orders.
However, Prism-Break was endorsed in June 2013 by independent tycoon and market analyst Max Kaiser as a “Site of the Day”
Considering how few people relish the idea of being monitored, it is a relief that there are alternatives to the one-size-fits-all approach of internet platforms and digital sharing for those willing to invest in some learning time–and mostly voluntary additional costs.
Tor Browser Bundle
Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis. –Tor Project.org
Major news organizations including the New York Times, Forbes, Al Jazeera, Washington Post, Le Monde, NPR, BBC, and more have sought out or quoted Tor Project members due to their expertise on anonymity, privacy, and Internet censorship issues.– Tor Press and Media Info
Already one of the most popular non-proprietary web browsers, Firefox allows users to opt out of saved search history and cookies. It also has less cut-and-paste issues for HTML posting. There are also more web-developer options, and they are non-profit sponsors for StopWatching.us.
Adblock Edge blocks cookies
Tired of those annoying popups that can also contain spy-ware? Adblock Edge is popular with reviewers, and you can increase or disable the filters, as well as contribute to documentation. Note: You will still want to periodically check under Internet Options that low numbers of cookies are accepted, since this can still get accidentally changed.
HTTPS Everywhere for secure surfing
HTTPS Everywhere is quick and easy to install, designed to combine seamlessly with Firefox and Chrome. A separate toolbar button in the Navigation Toolbar allows you to change preferences. Note: You will still want to check your firewall settings for how visible your computer is. So far, my computer is working just as quickly as before the installation.
Disconnect.me web browser add-on
Disconnect.me is a web-browser add-on which allows you to monitor and control the trackers. After selecting privacy settings, and opting out of tracking (such as Google Analytics), the pages load up faster. And there are encryptions for secure social networking. Cute videos!
Start Page from the Netherlands awarded Euro Privacy seal
StartPage Search Engine is based in the Netherlands, where according to Robert Beens, CEO, the company is beyond the tentacles of the NSA and FISC, so far. It carries the European Privacy Seal, Certified Secure emblem, and scores 100 on the privacy scale. The Search feels organic.
Duck Duck Go – lots of fun
Clicking on the Duck head opens a video that tells you all about Duck Duck Go and how to use it. One unique feature about Duck Duck is its page of goodies–and short bangs! It also claims to have way less spam, more privacy, instant search boxes, and customizable start page.
Rise up.net for social justice activists
Prism-Break also offers at least six alternative email services for those concerned about email security. It also advertises fifteen specialty email encryption and applications ensuring privacy and security in email communications. This concern is indeed real in this age when corporate spying, and labor turnovers are routine, and when political reporting or activism can lead to imprisonment.