Privacy

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Glossary.svg This page describes a concept which is part of our glossary
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Privacy is the resource that is made available by Security which in turn is a collection of tools for allowing information and resource to be made available only to selected people or groups. In OrganicDesign this means that our peer-to-peer network must have a good distributed encryption and authentication mechanism in place so that trust groups can contain private information securely and persistently even when none of the members are online.

Having very good encryption is important because these days more and more sensitive information needs to be stored in a robust distributed way while remaining fully private and under our own control. Examples of such information are passwords and private keys, scanned identification documents, personal correspondence and these days even digital money.

Many people believe that, if you have nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear from all this scrutiny. But if you resist the urge to pick your nose while others are present, or close the door when you go to the toilet, you are a privacy advocate. "When you realise that your whole life is under view," says the Tory MP David Davis, "it’s inhibiting." (from Can you disappear in surveillance Britain?). For more detailed information on this aspect of privacy, see Debunking a myth: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Quote.pngIf you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.
— Eric Schmidt (CEO of Google)

Real security a myth?

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There isn't much confidence in real privacy these days with all the rumors and/or facts of "back doors" and quantum computers which can achieve seemingly miraculous computational power. But before getting sucked into all the hype, bear this simple foundation in mind - if two people share a private random block of information used one time only to encrypt a message of the same size, it is mathematically impossible to break, even by quantum computation - it is said to exhibit information theoretic security. It is only the level of organisation required amongst participants that currently makes this method impractical - in practice the network would usually combine this method with traditional methods.

Anonymous search

The DuckDuckGo search engine is a meta-search mechanism that gives the same results as Google, but is cleaner and preserves your privacy. It's a little slower to come up with results, but presents them in a nicer way and uses AJAX to maximise its usability.

Anonymous Internet browsing

Apart from the standard practice of using HTTPS connections when working with private content, it is also important to preserve anonymity - i.e. not giving away any information about the source of the web page requests. We use the Firefox browser with the TorButton add-on. There also another called FoxTor but I haven't tried that one yet. These solutions both use the TOR (The Onion Router) to achieve anonymity.

The add-on is easy enough to install, but I found that I also needed to apt-get install polipo and change the port settings in the TorButton preferences. The HTTP and SSL had to be changed from 8118 to 8123 and the SOCKS from 9050 to 4424. I found the ports that polipo was using with netstat -lp|grep polipo. After installation, you can check if it's working by switching it on and then checking your ip address and its estimated geographical location.

Another useful related addon to Firefox is the User Agent Switcher.

Private communications

Projects

  • CryptoNote - an open-source technology and concepts for the cryptocurrencies of the future
    • BoolBerry - a new cryptocurrency based on CryptoNote technology
  • Cryptocat - open-source web-based private chat
  • ZeroLink - very good looking Bitcoin mixer project
  • Silent Circle - Private comms of email, mobile, voip, IM and teleconferencing, by Dr. Zimmerman and others
  • Retroshare - Open Source cross-platform, private and secure decentralised communication platform. It lets you to securely chat and share files with your friends and family, using a web-of-trust to authenticate peers and OpenSSL to encrypt all communication. RetroShare provides filesharing, chat, messages, forums and channels
  • Waterken
  • GNU Privacy Guard (GPG) - GNU implementation of the OpenPGP standard
  • StrongSwan - IPsec for Linux
  • Onion Pi - TOR on Pi
  • prism-break.org - stop reporting your online activities to the US government with these free alternatives to proprietary software
  • Tails - Debian with onion, takeaway style!
  • Private Internet Access (PIA) - VPN provider committed to privacy, no logging and excellent legal support
  • Silent Vault - using voucher-safe to make bitcoin anonymous
  • okTurtles + DNSChain - excellent project addressing issues with HTTPS and certificate authority fraud
  • ZeroNet - decentralised websites using Bitcoin crypto and the BitTorrent network
  • Rifle - more secure and efficient alternative to Tot and I2P underway at MIT

Related news

See also

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