Keys to Protecting Your Privacy
Affluent individuals need to be especially cautious about revealing schedules, travel plans or other clues about their whereabouts when traveling abroad, as in many foreign countries and particularly emerging markets, kidnapping is a very real threat. Kenneth Citarella of Guidepost Solutions warns that any digital media you bring to certain foreign countries will almost certainly be compromised; he recommends removing sensitive information from your devices and bringing a different cell phone that does not have all of one’s usual contacts.
Cell phones broadcast where you are all the time. “Turning off location services for any apps that don’t really require your location is a good first step,” says Ryan Dochuk, cofounder of internet VPN service TunnelBear. “Companies and hackers are also increasingly exploiting WiFi and Bluetooth to track your physical location. If you aren’t currently using WiFi or Bluetooth, just turn them off.” The new Android-based Blackphone, from Maryland-based company Silent Circle and Geeksphone in Spain, is designed to maximize privacy settings for calls, SMS messages and other activities.
BE ANTI SOCIAL NETWORKS
Social networks are a weak link in protecting family information, particularly because they are often used by younger family members who care less about privacy than do older generations. Over-sharers will happily post news of acquisitions, holiday plans, vacations—all disclosures of interest to predators. But some Facebook alternatives allow sharing in a more targeted way. Digital protection service Summitas can serve as a private network for sharing family photographs and information. A site called Sgrouples calls itself a privacy-friendly social network “free of tracking and other data scraping nonsense.” Of course, the challenge with alternative social networks is convincing friends and family to use them as well.
Actions as simple as sending an email to an accountant, attaching a contract or forwarding a travel agent a date of birth can make personal details vulnerable to snooping or theft. It’s best to take precautions akin to those used by banks for sharing information.
Summitas, one of a number of digital-protection services that cater to the wealthy, offers an encrypted data vault for documents. A Washington, D.C., privacy startup called Simply Personal offers a similar data vault service; it lets you give outsiders access to single documents on a case-by-case basis. Business-focused firms such as Firmex and Memeo give users even more control of document sharing by, for example, allowing the sender to block printing and programming a file to self-destruct after a specified time.
Encryption makes it harder for snoops to monitor internet browsing. To start with, download a free browser extension from the pro-privacy Electronic Frontier Foundation called HTTPS Everywhere; the program encrypts your communication with many major websites. Use an encrypted VPN (virtual private network) service, which does not log your computer’s IP address to protect your movements to and from the internet. (There are many such services, including FoxyProxy and SurfEasy.) Authentic8 Silo further boosts privacy by putting browser activity into the cloud and clearing all traces after each session. Apps such as Disconnect block websites that secretly track your web surfing.
SAFEGUARD YOUR EMAIL
Companies such as CounterMail and Hushmail encrypt email to protect it from being hacked. The contents are hidden, but the sender and recipient addresses are visible. ShazzleMail uses software to deliver a message directly from a computer to the recipient, rather than distributing it through many different routing points.
Creating company-specific email addresses (e.g. one for Delta, another for Four Seasons, etc.) that connect to a user’s central email address gives more control and protection in case a company’s database is hacked or they sell the information, leading to unwanted emails. A company called Abine offers such a service, called MaskMe.
For more information: abine.com; authentic8.com; blackphone.ch; countermail.com; diconnect.me;eff.org (Electronic Frontier Foundation); firmex.com, getfoxyproxy.org; guidepostsolutions.com;hushmail.com; memeo.com; personal.com; sgrouples.com; shazzlemail.com; silentcircle.com;summitas.com; surfeasy.com; tunnelbear.com