Privacy Tips from Citizen Four

Laura, at this stage I can offer nothing more than my word. I am a senior government employee in the intelligence community. I hope you’ll understand that contacting you is extremely high-risk. For now, know that every border you cross, every purchase you make, every call you dial, every cell phone tower you pass, friend you keep, site you visit, and subject line you type, is in the hands of a system whose reach is unlimited, but whose safeguards are not. In the end, if you publish the source material, I will likely be immediately implicated. I ask only that you ensure this information makes it home to the American public. Thank you and be careful. –Citizen Four

With those words, Citizen Four – who we now know is Edward Snowden – reached out to journalist Laura Poitras and initiated the largest expose of the American intelligence community in history. The ramifications of the ongoing disclosures are vast and unfolding.

On October 24, Poitras documentary, “Citizenfour,” will begin airing in theaters around the country. I certainly intend to watch it and I hope you will as well. While I have mixed feelings about the Snowden revelations, I believe as informed and self-reliant citizens we have an obligation to understand what our government is doing.

Given that I live in a very rural part of the country, I don’t know when I will be able to see the film. But, when I do, I will share my thoughts with you about what is contained in the film.

In the meantime, Snowden has been doing interviews from time to time and has touched on some issues that I believe are relevant to many of the discussions we have in these advisories. Specifically, the issue of privacy and security when it comes to communications and the use of the Internet.

A little more than a week ago, in a lengthy interview he participated in as part of the New Yorker Festival, Snowden discussed a number of privacy tips that I want to share with you.

The entire video of the interview and the excerpted tips are available in “Edward Snowden’s Privacy Tips: ‘Get Rid of Dropbox,’ Avoid Facebook and Google” as published by TechCrunch.

For ease of reference, here are a number of the points Snowden made specific to privacy and use of the Internet as presented by TechCrunch.

–“People should seek out encrypted tools and stop using services that are “hostile to privacy.””

“You should “get rid of Dropbox,” because it doesn’t support encryption, and you should consider alternatives like SpiderOak.”

“While Facebook and Google have improved their security, they remain “dangerous services” that people should avoid.”

“Don’t send unencrypted text messages, but instead use services like RedPhone and Silent Circle.”

I am pleased to note that these points are very much in sync with the advice we have given members of the Self-Reliant Institute over the course of the last year. And, of course, we will continue to update you on methods and services that provide the most privacy and security possible. I am currently testing SpiderOak, so I will have an advisory about that product in the very near future.

Beyond those tips, I encourage you to read the full TechCrunch article linked above and, if you have time, to watch the one-hour interview of Snowden that is available at the end of the TechCrunch piece. Snowden discusses much of his reasoning for doing what he did and shares his thoughts on a range of issues.

Love him or hate him, he has certainly given much thought to his beliefs about our government and he is very articulate in expressing those beliefs.

I would be interested to hear what you think of Snowden. Obviously, he’s a very controversial individual. Yet, it seems to me, what he has exposed is eye-opening for many Americans.

Also, do you have Internet communication security methods or services that you believe are useful? Have you turned away from DropBox, Facebook, Google and other popular services?

Please share your thoughts by writing me at [email protected]

Be safe, secure and free!

Rob Douglas – Former Washington DC Private Detective

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