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    ABC News: 7 Ways to Stop Uncle Sam from Spying On You

    People are increasingly using digital communications technology in many aspects of their lives, allowing for easier tracking of their choices and actions. I’ve written about how smartphones can record owners’ browsing habits; a recent Times UK story discussed how “Shops track customers via mobile phone”; a media research company called Integrated Media Measurement (IMMI) has created software for mobile phones that would be able to record and identify every snippet of audio around you; the New York Times had an interesting story about students allowing researchers to track every call made, e-mail or text sent, or song played on their smartphones, in exchange for free use of the phones. Recently, the Times UK had an interview with the country’s Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, who discussed the problem of “creeping surveillance” in the UK.

    Now, ABC News has interviewed privacy experts to get tips on how to protect the privacy and security of your digital communications and transactions.

    “We all benefit from the explosion in communications technology, but it also means that there are new and growing caches of sensitive data about us,” said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group that, this week, launched a surveillance self-defense campaign.

    On issues of digital privacy, Bankston said, the law has not kept pace with the boom in technology. Left out on a limb legally, he continued, Americans need to defend themselves technologically.

    Not only do we need to be careful about protecting the information we store on our computers and cell phones, we need to be wary about data stored on the servers and in the databases of third-party companies who don’t necessarily make privacy a priority.

    Tips include: 

    1. They can’t take what you don’t have. So, delete, delete, delete. […] Finally, privacy advocates say that when you delete, make sure you actually delete.

    “Deleting” a file on your computer — moving the file to the trash and then emptying the folder — doesn’t actually get rid of the file for good. It just makes the file invisible to the user and lets the computer know it can be overwritten with new data. Even if it gets overwritten, which could take weeks or years, computer experts can still figure out the initial data.

    However, software exists that can securely delete files by overwriting them several times. The EFF says your operating system probably already includes software that can do this, and if not the EFF site includes links to other free deletion tools.

    2. If you keep it, encrypt it. […] “Why is it worth it to get a lock for your house?” Bankston asked. “Your computer is your virtual house.”

    3. Run the most up-to-date browsing software. […] The newer versions automatically update to make sure you’re using the most secure browser. 

    4. Manage your cookies.

    Aside from the sweet temptations in a jar, cookies are pieces of information used to track your browsing habits online. If your browser is set to accept them, they will tell a site when you visit a page and what you do on it.

    There are several other important tips. Read the entire article.

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