Unsurprisingly, once again, the National Security Agency has been caught illegally collecting the phone data of Americans. According to reports, the NSA unlawfully collected a massive volume of call and text records from an unnamed U.S. telecom provider.
In its own internal documents, the NSA claimed the impact of the illegal data collection did not affect national security or international relations.
According to the NSA, the agency “will assess the scope of the civil liberties and privacy impact of this incident upon completion of the investigation.”
With that being said, the question remains, what is the consequence for doing this? Obviously, this action is illegal, but who is accountable for collecting it?
The truth is, the NSA isn’t going to stop doing this even if they claim they do. This is why you need to stay vigilant when it comes to sharing information so that your privacy can be protected.
Here are a few simple ways you can hopefully avoid eavesdropping, whether by the government or someone trying to steal your identity.
Abandon the cloud. Many people have smartly resisted moving to cloud storage because the idea of putting their programs and data into another companies hands is just too risky.
Now, the NSA probably isn’t searching every Dropbox or iCloud account, but we know the NSA can and has gathered data from cloud servers.
To be safe, keep your personal data off of cloud servers and store it on your own server or better yet, on an external hard drive.
Keep in mind, every time you create a new account for cloud storage or upload your data, you are exposing your personal information to be hacked or seen by government agencies.
Stop texting. When you text someone, you might think your message goes directly to the person you’re writing to but it doesn’t. The way it works is your first message goes to a server, where a copy is kept and then it’s sent out to the person you intended it for.
Those stored texts can be used against you and you can’t do a lot to make texting safer. The best thing you can do is to use a messaging application such as WhatsApp or Signal, which both offer end to end encryption on their apps.
No matter which app you use, make sure the person you are communicating with is also using the same app to ensure complete encryption. (This is one of the many reasons I don’t text and have never sent a text in my life.)
Turn off unnecessary services. In your pocket at this very moment, your smart phone may very well be syncing your contacts, calendar, GPS, browser history, and messages with others.
In other words, if you want to really maintain your privacy, you’re going to want to turn off all those services and apps that want to share or sync your information.
This will mean your smart phone may not share information with your laptop, or smart watch, but it will also stop others from seeing your private information.
Also, for more security, put your phone in airplane mode when you don’t need it and put it in a faraday bag.
The reality is, this will be the last time we hear about the NSA collecting massive amounts of data about ordinary Americans.
Of course, if you take a few simple steps you can eliminate most of the personal information that they could potentially obtain.