It may well be possible to mitigate their ability to watch you by wearing enough tin-foil hats. Even if you succeed, all you've achieved is to protect one solitary person at the cost of considerable personal inconvenience. Worse, once you consider yourself "safe enough" from prying eyes, your incentive to actually act on what they're doing will be diminished.
I think that we should try not to be meek about this issue, passively hiding ourselves and then getting on with our lives saying "Fuck you, got mine". Why should the tech community flee the very Internet that it has played such a crucial role in building? Is the idea that our democracies could eventually fix this situation really beyond all hope?
If you live in the UK, write to your MP (http://www.writetothem.com/). Support PPUK (http://www.pirateparty.org.uk/) if you feel strongly enough, as they're seemingly the only political group treating this matter with the seriousness it deserves.
In non-web life we have private and public spaces and there's plenty of study on how these two play together and how important they are. Most people have erroneously thought that because your computer is in your private physical space that it's also 'private', but that's clearly not the case.
What people need is the education to create the technological equivalent of locking yourself in your bedroom for the afternoon to clear your head.
Gmail is like sending a postcard, facebook like chatting with friends at the mall or park. Tor/truecrypte/pgp etc for parts of your life you want private. Separate usernames, interests, tones of voice, etc in this private space.
Trying to hide your real (ie public) self is silly as should you become a target of the nsa & co. they'll find a way to dig up something even if you've been completely hidden from july 2013 on. What people need is a reasonably benign public self and a hidden crypto-self.
Also I'm all for fighting the surveillance state, but I'm extremely cynical of it's success. I see no feasible way to reduce the power and authority of the militarized aspects of our government(s). I can't think of a single example of where public knowledge and outcry has changed anything other than getting a few puppets punished anywhere except the non-militarized parts of government.
I partly think it's because people are asking for the wrong things. People say things like "stop NSA surveillance" which is vague and impractical. What needs to happen is to hit them where it hurts: Reduce total defense spending to 50% of what it is now. That should be the demand from everyone. Money is power. If you want them to have less power, stop giving them so damn much money. And besides, who can't get behind massively lower taxes?
If the NSA spots half a dozen people on Crypto-Reddit's /r/boston who claim to be from San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Chicago, rural Tennessee, and Miami respectively, then it knows it has probably found six actual Bostonians.
Individuals are in many ways an expression of our context. To remove all information leakage that would tell what our context is or, more simply, who we are, you basically have to remove the person entirely. Even 4chan-grade anonymity won't cut it, since writing style and narrative threading can be used to extract some sense of pseudonymity from even a /b/ thread.
We want our conveniences, we want our privacy, yet we don't want terrorists. We want our iPhones, our cars, and our comforts, and we don't want to see the price exacted from the rest of the world.
Surveillance seems like a very big problem, but only because it is so personal. It's distracting us from the real problems of the world, and that is pretty much every one of us are selfish, adding fuel to conflicts. We're crazy.
I'm a big fan of this approach, as it allows people to explore different facets of their personality. Unfortunately, for the past year the big players, led by google, have been waging a war on it.
But the more significant point is that using this stuff, as an individual, isn't really going to cut it without more, but who says that's the idea? We need to be creating things like this. What we have here is a list of open source projects you should all be contributing to and promoting to anyone you have influence over, and a list whose holes and shortcomings provide opportunities for creating new things.
I mean what good is Diaspora if everyone you know is still on Facebook anyway? But if you create an account and use it regularly, and convince as many people as you can to do likewise, that's how change ultimately happens.
And what you can do is: Read Facebook, write Diaspora. Don't shut off your Facebook account if all your friends still use it. Not enough people are sufficiently purist for that to scale. Just stop posting anything to Facebook that doesn't consist of "I just posted something you might be interested in to Diaspora" and then let all your friends wonder what they could be missing.
If everyone used tools like this, it would be much more difficult for governments to trample on privacy rights. It seems like a worthy goal.
I also think that the very URL of this project - http://prism-break.org/ - invokes a certain over-focus on NSA's PRISM. As a UK citizen, however, my Internet traffic itself is being stored and monitored by GCHQ. So to me it seems especially futile switching from Chrome to Firefox, or from Google to DDG, or from Facebook to Diaspora.
Popularity provides some protection, but it also creates a more desirable target for legislation amongst those who oppose it.
America's government is so corrupt it is no longer democratic.
Watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw2z9lV3W1g
Unfortunately yes, absolutely.
And you begin to see a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the level of corruption and the "quality" of the policy decisions that are made, example: The Iraq war. Another one: the "inertia" regarding climate change action (it's just corporate power effing it all up for us).
It really has a grave effect on all human beings on this planet. It's clear that this has become a fundamentally global problem.
I strongly disagree with your statement that using encryption will make you passive. Instead it is the other way around: if you continue to use compromised services despite knowing the dangers you will become passive and lose your ability to think clearly about the issues at stake.
Law writers and enforces are corruptible, while code is not.
... what exactly have we uncovered with PRISM and the NSA bulk wiretapping, if not code having been corrupted from its original purposes in ways and extents unforeseen at the outset?
One has to write anonymizing p2p proxies because the old stack was corrupted. It's hardly different than the reason one would want new laws to address the way the old ones have been corrupted.
And our new p2p proxies? They're also (going to be) subject to corruption, by unforeseen things like Sybil attacks. Just as any new law is subject to possible future corruption.
Does anyone have a suggested template letter for this?
Of course not. We should vote these creeps out of office and elect someone that really stands for privacy and civil liberties - like this promising young man: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6fnfVJzZT4
'works' for who, buddy?
Who is "the tech community"? I'm in the tech community, and I'm pretty sure I didn't create The Internet, or Facebook, or the NSA. I think the goal here is to provide people with resources so they can the internet more safely, and to normalize safety measures in order to guard against their demonization or prohibition.
Edit: However I absolutely agree that it's important to fight on social and political fronts as well as technological ones.
There's lots we can do, it's just that some of it is hard, time-consuming and probably frustrating. I do know that this will be the first question on my lips when a politician next asks me for a vote.
Because you already have acted on it, they attempted to violate your privacy and you solved the problem, there's no point wasting time with useless political solutions that are largely ignored. That is the route which could more fairly be described as "not actually acting on what they're doing"
I tried that, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, got no reply. I suspect that is because the main parties share one policy here.
> Support PPUK
Potentially, also, the green party:
But we need to use all the privacy-enhancing tools we can get our hands on, on the way to "real" solutions: You can't organize activities and exchange your thoughts freely while being watched by the government. The fear of being put on "the list" will stifle free speech and therefor sabotage the creation of any meaningful movement. It's called "self-censorship" and I've been told it's the worst form of censorship.
So yes, migrate all of your communication towards encryption and use an open-source operating system.