The U.S. Senate recently voted down an amendment to the USA Patriot Act that would have protected your privacy. The amendment created tough standards for investigators looking to collect the web search and browsing histories of citizens.
And it required the Department of Justice to show probable cause when requesting approval to collect the data. But the amendment failed…
Which means the Feds can collect your web searches and browsing history without a warrant or probable cause. Big brother really is watching you. If you think this is no big deal and that you have nothing to hide anyway, that’s exactly what Michael C. and his family thought…
Right up until three black SUVs pulled up in front of their house and six men in suits, badges out, guns on hips, knocked on the front door. The family’s innocent home Google searching created a perfect storm.
It raised red flags and piqued the curiosity of law enforcement counterterrorism specialists. You might even remember this story:
Michael’s wife had recently been looking at pressure cookers for her home. And Michael had looked at new backpacks. Their 20-year old son read up on the Boston Bombing that had recently occurred. In particular, an article about how the two brothers had made their bombs.
Those combined family searches: the pressure cooker, the backpack, the bomb making, set off alarm bells for the agencies silently watching their internet usage.
And one morning, about 9am, Michael was sitting in his living room when he heard a couple of cars pull up outside. He looked out the window and saw three black SUVs in front of the house.
Six guys emerged from the vehicles and spread out as they walked toward the house. When Michael walked outside and the men greeted him by flashing badges. He could see they all had guns holstered in their waistbands.
They searched the house and peppered Michael with questions. Forty-five minutes later, they shook Michael’s hand and left, confident they were not dealing with terrorists.
With the failure of the Senate to pass the amendment to the Patriot Act, this surveillance is not going to stop. But there are ways to protect yourself from the prying eyes of government – or even cyber hackers.
Use the internet browser privacy mode. While surfing the internet a computer automatically saves your browsing history. To avoid this, activate the browser’s privacy mode before you access the internet. This blocks third-party cookies from tracking your activity between different websites.
Also, the “cookies” the site keeps as proof of your presence are also wiped out when you leave the site. This prevents people from seeing evidence of your online presence.
Block your internet browser from sending location. Often, your internet browser reports your location to the website you are visiting. They use this data to show you targeted and personalized search results and ads. To avoid this, you can block all location requests from the browser when you visit a website.
Stop allowing social media to know your location. For social sites, it’s easy to track us Americans. We give detailed information on our interests, and personal interest activities. And sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn follow our activities even after we’ve logged out of our accounts.
They do it through the sharing or like button we click on. But you can control the security settings on these social media websites to protect yourself.
For example, on Facebook you can turn off ads based on what you click on outside of Facebook. And most social media websites have similar options. Simply go to the security settings and look for options related to advertising.
And remember, you should always use a VPN to mask your IP address and physical location. Because you never know if an innocent internet search will lead to a knock at your door. Lastly, use the browser “Duck Duck Go” instead of Google or Yahoo to protect your privacy when browsing.