You are being watched.
What if I told you that a government agency is intercepting your text messages? Or your emails collected in a mass database? Data on who you’ve called, emailed and texted, and at what times?
Whether it’s being used by government agencies, large organizations, or individuals, technology exists to monitor your every move in the digital world. And it is being used, make no mistake.
This is not a paranoid conspiracy. The headlines say it all: “Six reporters spied on by Quebec provincial police,” said one CBC article. “RCMP still won’t admit that it uses these high-power spying tools even though they do,” read one Vice headline, referring to “Stingray” devices that effortlessly and indiscriminately intercept calls and texts from all nearby cellphones.
Edward Snowden did us a service when he leaked to the press documents that revealed a mass surveillance program by the American National Security Agency, to the scale not seen since the Stasi in east Germany, which sought to “know everything about everyone.” It includes the surveillance of Canadians and continues today.
This is just what we know. Spy agencies, by their very nature, are not transparent about what they do. The RCMP had the global decryption key for BlackBerry messages since 2010, intercepting millions of messages, but we only found out in 2016 after Vice broke the news. Another Vice story revealed that CSIS may never have told the Trudeau government about their enormous database containing information on Canadians who were never under investigation in the first place.
What else are they doing?
The reality is, the “guarantees” in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms simply aren’t absolute. New legislation like Bill C-51, which countless legal experts agree threatens our Charter rights, will continue to erode privacy in the name of security. By the way, the Trudeau government has miraculously not started a single one of their promised reforms to C-51.
There are ways to keep you and your data out of the dragnet, though.
Here are my three tips for a secure digital life:
· Encrypt, encrypt, encrypt. For texting, install Signal and get friends and family to do the same. The app, which is endorsed by Edward Snowden himself, uses end-to-end (E2E) encryption and makes it impossible to intercept your messages. For email, consider a service like ProtonMail, who encrypts your messages on their servers. Emails sent between fellow users are E2E encrypted.
· Stop using Google and switch to startpage.com or duckduckgo.com, which don’t track you. They don’t even know who you are. For extra privacy, install the Tor browser, which uses a network of proxies to anonymize your connection.
· Use better passwords. According to a study by Keeper, the most common password of 2016 was “123456.” Folks, you’re doing this to yourselves. Use Keeper or Lastpass to securely manage your passwords.
A list of other services to check out, and a surveillance self-defence guide, are available on getprotected.io.
Perhaps you think you have nothing to hide. But, if the infringements on our privacy become normalized, it will become even easier for governments to limit our other rights in the future. We cannot let that happen.