The National Security Agency (NSA) can access your social media and email, whether you're living in the United States or overseas. Over the last few months, Internet users have discovered that if they value their privacy, they must take Internet security into their own hands. Reset the Net, an Internet privacy campaign with some of the Internet's favorite hangouts supporting it, encourages them to do just that.
The names supporting Reset the Net are impressive, including Reddit, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Imgur, Amnesty International and Boing Boing. The NSA is not likely to curtail its surveillance operations, argues the initiative. However, everyday users can use a plethora of tools at their disposal to protect their data.
"The NSA is exploiting weak links in Internet security to spy on the entire world, twisting the Internet we love into something it was never meant to be: a panopticon," the Reset the Net website explains. To browse the Internet, chat and email privately, Reset the Net recommends a privacy pack of software including Adium and Pidgin for chatting, Textsecure and Redphone for secure phone calls, HTTPS Everywhere for Web browsing, GPGtools and Enigmail for personal encryption and TOR for those who don't mind doing some legwork to ensure total browser privacy.
On June 5, the campaign will also take more proactive steps to protest NSA surveillance. Websites can join the Reset the Net campaign to display a splash screen promoting Internet privacy (and the software pack), and everyday users can join a social media protest called Thunderclap. The campaign also encourages website owners to add SSL certifications to their websites.
While Reset the Net's recommendations are all good ones, it's important to remember that the NSA can still get its hands on whatever data it pleases, no matter how many layers of privacy or encryption it's behind. Where these programs come in handy is that it makes your data more trouble than it's worth for the NSA to acquire it.
Of course, by that logic, your data will probably remain just as private even if you don't lift a finger: Unless you are actively breaking the law or consorting with criminals, the NSA does not have any interest in your data, nor does it have the resources to sift through it. Securing your data is often more a matter of principle than of necessity.
Still, the principle is a good one for all those who value their privacy online. If you believe that the government should not be able to access your private data without a warrant, consider following Reset the Net's recommendations.