Privacy and security have become ongoing concerns for citizens of every country worldwide. Privacy is a fundamental human right recognized in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in many other international and regional treaties. Privacy underpins human dignity and other key values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech.
While most of us are not doing anything wrong on the internet, we all have plenty to protect, including our identities, our health data and our financial and investment information. Today human rights advocates, journalists, law enforcement agencies, and normal people who want to protect their right to privacy, use tor and the operating system called Tails.
Here are some of the reasons why even if you are squeaky clean.
Earlier this year Michael Miller, Chairman of News Corp Australia wrote about “Why we’re fighting for your right to know” in the Herald Sun, 21-October-2019. In it he begs the question,“are governments hiding their actions from us and What are they hiding from us?” Today many believe that there’s more secrecy than there should be and the people trying to expose it are themselves exposed or silenced because they have few ways of having private conversations. In a related article on the same day in the Herald Sun, Justin Quill, renowned Australian media lawyer writes about “Actions by government that limit our privacy also limits our freedoms.“#yourrighttoknow.
That begs the other side of the “right to know” question, and that is where is your right to privacy and your right to know if your privacy is being protected, or abused? After so many reveals about Facebook sharing our personal data, we know that not only are our governments hiding stuff from us they are also watching us and often we don’t know why or what for. We know big tech is watching, that’s their business model. In addition, individuals and companies alike are being watched by the so-called 14-eyes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and Spain, yes a whole group of countries who share information, about you, openly.
The terms “Five Eyes“, “Nine Eyes“, and “14 Eyes” often appear in the privacy community, especially when discussing VPNs, tor, Tails and other privacy tools. In short, these are just international surveillance alliances representing various countries around the world. These surveillance alliances work together to collect and share mass surveillance data. In other words, they are essentially acting as one global-surveillance entity.
The history of surveillance boils down to one simple theory; the more eyes you have watching citizens both friend and foe, the easier it is for governments to maintain peace and order. Could be true, probably is, but how far do we citizens allow this to go in our democracies today?
If you’re being targeted, good luck, because that’s all you have; as Jo average we have no way of knowing the full extent of the 14-eyes surveillance capability, but make no mistake it is out there and if one of them wants to watch your every move they all can.
So, is there any way to be private online?
Well, there is a growing belief that it’s possible to trust a technology called tor for anyone looking for online anonymity. This recommendation often ignores evidence suggesting that tor is not the ultimate “privacy tool” it’s made out to be, but in our experience it’s very good for the average person wanting privacy online.
Second, since 2017 the has FBI managed to breach the anonymity that Tor promises. Yeah, ok so if you’re being targeted your screwed no matter what. Right? Probably. However, if your not doing anything wrong, you should never be punished just for using the tools of privacy and security. We all have something we want to protect. Protection of private issues is NOT a crime and should not be treated as such.
However, a few things about tor. First, tor is a network popular with the dark/deep web, paedophiles, drug dealers and other criminals, meaning it also attracts law enforcement types. This suggests that tor might not be where you want to be seen, but as I’ve said for privacy online it’s quite a good tool.
Here are a few more facts. Apparently, it is known that governments can de-anonymize tor users. Governments can watch as you enter and exit the network, but they can’t see what you’re doing inside it (which probably means most of what you’re doing is private and unless and you’re targeted finding out what you’re doing will be hard for anyone, which is my point for the average citizen who believes privacy is a right).
Second, since 2017 the FBI managed to breach the anonymity that tor promises. Yeah, ok so if you’re being targeted your screwed no matter what. Right? Probably.
However, if you’re not doing anything wrong you should never be punished just for using the tools of privacy and security. We all have something we want to protect. Protection of private issues is NOT a crime and should not be treated as such; that and tor updates arrive online frequently. It’s a well-supported tool that is kept up to date on a regular basis.
Third, there are numerous documented exchanges between tor developers and US government agencies. There are many examples of people who have bought into the idea that tor provides blanket online anonymity – and later paid the price. The lesson here is using a bridge or VPN before accessing the tor network, and you are more likely to be anonymous. This combination of techniques is a bit more obscure and much more technical so I will save it for a later post.
Just to be clear, this is not an article about how to get away with bad acts by using the various privacy and security tools available to you. This is about you and your privacy generally. Personally, I think tor is a good way to be private. Sure, you can be watched if someone really wants to spend the time and money to watch you. Currently your every move is visible freely to the big tech companies and the governments they work with because you use their tools every day. tor is simply a way of making it hard to crack your privacy. Using tor is one action you can take to get at least some of your privacy back.
Are you at risk, do you even care! Find out one way or the other!
For more and to learn “how-to” be private online, see collectivesocialintelligence.com/privacy or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are based in Australia and have a growing schedule of privacy and security classes being scheduled for 2020.