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How to protect yourself against government spying

Last month, I attended an event by quintessenz, a Viennese association dedicated to data protection and privacy. The event “Yes we scan” was about ways how to protect yourself from NSA (and their friends) spying on you. In a quite technical talk, Dr. Matzinger, computer science lecturer at FH Burgenland, talked about tracking cookies, VPN tunnels, proxies, encryption and of course TOR. He talked about using three different browsers for work related surfing, private surfing and especially sensible content. He talked about routing all your Internet traffic through a proxy at home so your location cannot be tracked. And of course you should not use social network sites. At all.

Basically, I drew one conclusion from the talk: There is no practical way to protect yourself. All of these measures are fun if you have time and the technical knowledge to deal with it. They are interesting to explore if you are into information security or if it is your job to know all about it. But for the average user, it is just unrealistic to do all that. It is unrealistic until there are tools easy enough for dummy users, who do not want to spend hours figuring out how it works. Similar to the TOR browser bundle, but fast enough for everyday use. This probably is a market gap that someone hopefully fills soon.

Until then, the best way to protect yourself is to think about what you post online, what you put in your dropbox and maybe to spend the time figuring out how to encrypt your email. Or you could just do it like Russia’s federal guard service and just revert to paper communication.

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