So what is to be done? I’ve been waiting for someone to come up with some answers, and I’ve found him: Don Schointuch. He has written, in a language only geeks can appreciate, how to stay private. I will do my best to translate.
First, if you text and don’t want people (any people, all people) to see what you’re saying, he suggests using Wickr, a free app that encrypts your text so that no one, not even the people at Wickr (in case they’re asked) know what you wrote. Your target gets your text and must unlock the message first – just a finger touch – in order to read it. Here’s how Mashable explains it:
Messages are encrypted on your phone using a private key, and only the receiver can read them once he or she taps on the unlock button that appears when a message arrives. When traveling through Wickr servers, the correspondence is unreadable to anyone who might be snooping. Wickr claims it doesn’t store any of the messages, so the service can’t even turn correspondence over as scrambled gobbledygook if the feds or police come knocking.
To make voice calls, it’ll cost you, a little, about $10 a month (if you pay annually). The tool is called Silent Circle and encrypts your call going out. If you’re calling someone who is not “inside” the Circle – not a subscriber to Silent Circle – and want your calls to be encrypted, that costs more: about $400 a year.
There’s another option: RedPhone. It’s free but it’s rough to get started and it’s not bug-free. Soon, maybe, but not yet.
Credit card transactions? Use cash. Or bitcoin. Trouble is, very few online stores take bitcoin. Schointuch suggests buying pre-paid cards with cash. They’re inconvenient but there’s no way (so far) that NSA can track your purchases with them.
When surfing the internet, Schointuch suggests a virtual private network (VPN). His favorite: IPVanish.com. As their website says:
Your IP address is used for tracking purposes on every site you visit. It can also reveal your physical location and plenty of other information about you, such as your ISP or connection type. As you browse the web, your actions are tracked by every site, every search engine, and even your ISP. Once this information is on someone else’s computer, you should assume this information is kept about you forever.
This costs $10 a month or $77 a year.
At the present, I use StartPage instead of Google as I know the boys at Google are in cahoots with the NSA. StartPage hides my IP address whenever I venture forth into the internet world of wonders. It’s free and invisible.