The Electronic Frontier Foundation is on the fore-front when it comes to defending our digital rights. Even as a European I think they are doing important work even though they are mostly US centric. This because whatever happens in the US ripples over the pond and affects Europe and the rest of the world anyway. That means that next to larger fast-food portions increased digital surveillance is on its way to the EU as well.
Next to protecting our digital rights they are the author of a number of awesome security plugins and tools like the HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger browser plugins and a driving force behind the Let’s Encrypt free web site certificate tool set.
With the whole NSA PRISM storm blowing over the internet I thought it would be nice to compile a list of free and open source software I know that can help in safeguarding your privacy as an alternative to proprietary software or online cloud services which are not to be trusted with your personal data.
Hosting everything yourself is one way to go like the folks at unhosted.org suggest, but it isn’t free as it will a) cost you some money and b) usually quite some time to set everything up. Not everyone has the technical knowledge to do this either, so a list of open source software and trustworthy services for the masses would be great.
Turns out prism-break.org is just that kind of list, so that saves me the trouble of compiling it myself. Nice. Here’s another one with mostly the same items on it. Mostly.
The search bubble. That thing where Google puts you in so your results are tailored to your preferences and habits. It’s kinda creepy and cool at the same time isn’t it? One of DuckDuckGo‘s main features is that they don’t put you in a bubble. So they don’t track your past queries, they don’t spy on your social media accounts to figure out what you read, like or retweet and they don’t tailor your results.
This video shows pretty nicely what that Google bubble looks like btw.
Scary isn’t it? The problem is however… it works so damn good too.
I know my results are customized, but when I look for .NET related stuff (which I do all the time at work for example) whatever I’m looking for is usually in the top 3. I know it’s biased, but heck, it works like a charm.
Outside of the bubble, I get more stuff I don’t want or isn’t what I’m looking for.
So it all depends on what you want doesn’t it? But it is a good thing to know that the bubble is there and that it learns from your queries. It’s also good to know that you can escape the bubble if you want to. And just logging out of your Google account probably isn’t good enough.
One of the cool things emerging from the gazillion web 2.0 sites that popped up like zits on an unfortunate teens face are websites where you can publish your stuff without creating accounts or registering in any way. Anonymous so to speak.
Posting a quick snapshot online? Want to share a snippet of code? A collaborative manuscript? A mini-wiki for a short-lived purpose? There’s plenty of sites that offer these kind of functions without having to register. You can sign up if you really really want to in most cases, like if you want to claim, edit or delete things afterwards. But sometimes, that stuff is just overkill and maybe you just want to slap it online in a hurry or without any ties to your persona.
Here’s some good anon-services I found:
imgur.com: image sharing. Quick & easy. Keeps the pics as long as they are used for a fixed period of time. If not, they are deleted. Allows you to upload an image straight from a URL, which is damn handy if you want to avoid hotlinking pics from other sites.
bayimg.com, hosted by the lads from The Pirate Bay. Arrr! Free speech and all, upload anything (except pr0n that is).
pastebay.net, another one from The Piratee Bay lads. It’s like pastebin.com, but I’m sure more anonymous and certainly uncensored. Features are syntax highlighting for code and you can create your own sub-domain if you want to separate your snippets from others.
pastebin.com: I bet you’ve seen this one before. Paste text/code in an online notepad, allowing comments. Great for easy & quick copy-paste sharing.
pastehtml.com: the same as the above, except that this one takes HTML code and saves it as a working page on the site. It’s like free and ad-hoc web hosting. Pretty darn cool. Keeps the pages forever (or as long as the hosting is payed for) according to the FAQ. Needs a Facebook account if you want to claim pages. Sort of a big minus.
wrttn.in: notepad/publishing tool. Create and publish text with or without markup, embed images, videos etc. Very minimal in style, but that’s just what makes it look good. All this without branding or ads. Sounds cool doesn’t it?
shrib.com is another notepad service. Simple and URL based. Share your notes, back em up, keep them private.
piratepad.net : online collaborative Etherpad site. Allows for anonymous online collaborative text editing with a built in chat function. There’s more Etherpad hosts out there since it’s open source software. So if you want can even host your own. Oh yeah, and Arrrrr!!! of course. I almost forgot.
jottit.com : create a wiki, just like that. Anyone can edit, unless you claim it with a password. Sweet for mini sites and all!
A note on the use of “anonymous” here though. If you truly want to keep your identity hidden you might want to take additional measures than to simply trust the above websites in keeping your identity safe. Using a web browser to connect to any web site will give that site data about your browser, machine and geographical location. To shield this information and protect your online identity you should look into using an anonymizer like Tor.