The Blaze –

Recent news of the NSA collecting metadata of phone calls from communication companies, along with federal law enforcement seeming to continue to press for expansion of its ability to collect personal information online without warrants, has many questioning how safe their own privacy is.

Although a Pew Research Center poll found 56 percent of Americans back the NSA’s spying on call records, many have still expressed outrage over what they feel is a breech of their expected privacy and have labeled the whistleblower of the classified government program a hero.

Those concerned about their communication privacy — be it over the phone or on the Web — may then be wondering: Is there anything to be done? Is full privacy even possible?

We went searching and found a few answers. Here are a few tips:

1. Go off the grid: Although the most extreme measure, not communicating electronically would prevent such data from ever being available for collection in the first place. If you want to know what it’s like to go at least without the Internet for a year, check out Paul Miller’s column on The Verge after he did just that.

But as Elad Yoran, CEO of the IT security company Vaultive, told TheBlaze “the choice of not communicating electronically is not one that’s real for us.”

One choice people do have though, Yoran said, is being conscious of what they post online.

“Choosing to post a picture on Facebook or to tweet is an action we take deliberately and that we control,” he said.

Even if you have your social media sites set to private, that information is still being collected by the site itself and could be obtained legally through a court order.

2. Keep your browsing quiet: If you’ve been freaked out when shopping online for a Father’s Day tie and found that ads about menswear are cropping up on unrelated sites afterward, you might consider secure browsing. Although what to get dad might not be a controversial search, users could have their reasons to wish to keep searches private or just don’t want their searches to be recorded in cyberspace. TheBlaze has reported on secure Internet browsing before (Here’s How You Can Browse the Web Without Being Tracked), but here’s a bit of a recap.

  • Private mode: most Web browsers have the ability to allow you to search privately, without cookies being enabled to track your movements. There are also browser extensions likeGhostery,  Abine’s Do Not Track and AVG’s Do Not Track that prevent “invisible” entities from tracking searches as well.
  • Hide your IP address: an even higher level of security hides your computer’s IP address entirely. There are several services that do this including Hot Spot Shield, which is VPN (virtual private network) software, and the search engine StartPage. 
  • Go hard core with ‘Tor’: CNET called the Tor Project “hard core” and potentially even “overkill” when it comes to secure browsing. Tor is free software that enables not only browsing that is anonymous but it encrypts data transport and doesn’t reveal a user’s location or how long they were browsing. How? It reroutes your IP address several times before connecting.

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