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How to Keep Your Data Private and Browse the Internet Anonymously

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 (5:00 am) - Score 75,639

As a general rule you should also make sure that any networks you run are always secured by the best encryption available (e.g. WPA2 on home WiFi wireless networks) and a strong password. You should also make sure that your computer software is kept fully up-to-date and has active anti-virus software installed, ideally supported by a firewall (most broadband routers and modern operating systems will enable a default firewall that will automatically help to block many unwanted remote access / attack attempts).

The Future

In the coming years both governments and ISPs are likely to impose increasingly tough restrictions upon UK internet access. Plenty of cases have already shown that such strict censorship systems, which are often initially implemented to help stop children viewing adult content, often end up restricting access to legitimate sites and services too (e.g. blocks against clothing sites, church sites and civil society groups). Check out some recent examples here, here and here.

At the same time internet users are coming under an increasing threat from often unjust public and private sector attempts to gather your personal data and monitor what you do online, often regardless of whether or not you are suspected of a crime. Suffice to say that putting too much unregulated and poorly managed power in the hands of commercial internet providers is not without its risks and ISPs often seem to agree.

A BT Spokesperson said:

It is not for ISPs to proactively monitor material available online. There are privacy and freedom of expression implications as well as the more practical consideration of the sheer volume of content online. The current approach of notice and takedown, which takes place within the legislative framework (with auditing and oversight), is the most effective and practical solution.”

TalkTalk’s Executive Director of Strategy and Regulation, Andrew Heaney, added:

If you block a site then people find another route to get there (e.g. a proxy server) and if you ban that proxy server then people use another technique or a different proxy server. There will be only one winner in this type of arms-race / cat and mouse chase and it won’t be the state!

As Heaney points out above, the technological arms race that allows so many people to avoid unwanted censorship is already well ahead of the game. For example, a new generation of clever Proxy Servers, such as those managed by the free speech promoting Tor Project (i.e. Obfsproxy), will soon be able to disguise encrypted connections as unencrypted ones and even piggyback over legitimate protocols or servers for other services.

As a side note, many of the censorship systems being considered often also result in ISPs and mobile operators blocking sites and servers that connect to projects like Tor and Telex (i.e. circumvention tools). Ironically these are the very same systems that western governments, including the UK and USA, often praise for helping to foster Freedom of Speech in stricter countries (e.g. Iran, China etc.).

Ultimately such restrictions would appear to be ineffective against the greater desire by innocent individuals to retain their personal privacy. At the end of the day, whether for good or ill, we all relish that ability to close the curtains and scuttle away from an unwelcome gaze.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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