How the government can spy on you, and what you can do about it

Technology has brought great advances and conveniences, but it also comes with the cost of privacy. You;ve seen many examples in the news. The NSA has been caught spying on German chancellor Angela Merkel and her closest advisers for years. WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange says the NSA intercepts 98 percent of South American communications.

You’d fight for free speech if anyone threatened to take it away. Yet ISPs, technology companies, and the government are all threatening to take away our privacy, and we’re standing by and letting it happen. Even if you have nothing incriminating to hide, you still have sensitive information on the internet, and the right to privacy.

Here are some of the organizations that are spying on you, and some of the simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your information.

Who’s spying on us?

Few organizations have caught as much of the spotlight as the National Security Agency (NSA). But even outside of the States, many governments have their own version of the NSA.

The most prominent ones are:

  • UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)
  • Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)
  • Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)
  • New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)

Together with the NSA, they form the Five Eyes alliance. These government organizations regularly collaborate on spy programs with silly code names, but their work is no laughing matter.

The government can call upon technology companies to learn about you. Although technology companies wouldn’t want to rat out their own customers, they may simply have no choice. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer saidexecutives faced jail if they revealed government secrets. Google has even made a petition for greater transparency.

So technology companies are forced to work with the government. Yahoohas complied with government requests for information.

Technology companies know quite a bit about you

Google snuck code into advertisements that would install tracking cookiesinto users’ devices without their knowledge. Through Android, Google knowsnearly every Wi-Fi password in the world.

Both Apple and Google track your phone’s movements with location-based services. Google scans your emails in order to serve you more relevant advertisements. Apple stores your iMessages. Dropbox reads your files.

As if jail wasn’t compelling enough, the government is also rumored to spy on technology companies.

“It’s really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centers, if that’s true,” said Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt to the Wall Street Journal. “The steps that the organization was willing to do without good judgment to pursue its mission and potentially violate people’s privacy, it’s not OK.”

Even if you have nothing to hide, you have the right to your privacy. Here’s how you can protect your data from prying eyes.


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