3 Projects to Help You Fight for Your Online Privacy



Today, February 11, 2014, the anniversary of internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz‘ passing, marks a day of activism against mass National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance, dubbed “The Day We Fight Back.” Today is also nearly the anniversary (02/18/13) of the SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) Blackout that saw countless sites, including internet giant Google, go black in protest last year.

Today’s protest is backed by over 600 organizations, including BoingBoing, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), O’Reilly Media, Reddit, Access, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Mozilla, and ThoughtWorks, and is a call for new laws to curtail online surveillance. According to the campaign, “the NSA collected 97 billion pieces of data in March 2013 alone, including 3 billion from U.S. computers” and “the NSA has built a surveillance network that has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. internet traffic.”

The campaign site makes it easy for folks to call and email local legislators in protest to mass surveillance. There’s a real-time running tally that currently shows roughly 50,000 calls made and 100,000 emails sent. If you’re not a U.S. resident, you can sign an international petition, which currently has roughly 175,000 signatures.

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From the campaign site:

Congress is considering two major bills.

The USA Freedom Act curtails NSA surveillance abuses.
The FISA Improvements Act attempts to legalize bulk data collection of phone records.
We need to tell Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act and amend it to make it even stronger.

Here are 3 projects from MAKE that you can build to fight for your online privacy:

How to Bake an Onion Pi

onion pi

Feel like someone is snooping on you? Browse the web anonymously anywhere you go with the Onion Pi Tor proxy. This is a cool weekend project that uses a Raspberry Pi mini computer, USB wi-fi adapter, and Ethernet cable to create a small, low-power, and portable privacy Pi.

LibraryBox: Portable Private Digital Distribution


PirateBox is a mobile, anonymous file-sharing device, allowing anyone to upload and download digital files from mobile phones, laptops, and plug computers. When PirateBox developers managed to leverage the project onto inexpensive 3G-to-wi-fi routers, I had the idea to fork PirateBox into LibraryBox. So how do you use LibraryBox? Put your digital content on a USB stick, plug in the stick, and power up the device, which will act as a wireless digital download hub. Share anything! It’ll even stream video and audio — it’s robust enough to stream HD MP4 video to an iPhone or iPad — and it runs all day on a rechargeable battery pack.

Internet Kill Switch


The advent of the always-on internet connection has transformed modern computing. While you’re away from the keyboard, your software can automatically update itself, fixing bugs and patching security flaws. Or automatically back up data from your hard drive to a remote server so that, in the event of disaster, you still have a record of even your most recent work. There’s all kinds of good stuff your computer can do with that internet connection, while you’re away.

It can also, of course, get into lots of trouble. Backdoors, bot-nets, spyware—the list goes on. And while the good guys may allow you to configure their off-hours internet usage in software, and will probably respect your choices, the bad guys won’t.

If you want to be double-dog sure, here’s a simple, fool-proof answer: a hardware kill switch. Put one on the wired connection between your computer and router and use it to unambiguously isolate that computer from the internet whenever you want. Or put it between your router (wireless or otherwise) and your ISP hardware to control the connection for the entire house. Sure, you could just unplug the cable, but that’s hard on the connectors, and the switch is faster to use and neater-looking, to boot.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

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