The state of digital privacy is already so far gone that abandoning the use of digital tools. Altogether may be the only way to keep information safe, security researchers said. Leaving cell phones at home would help avoid persistent location tracking introduced by wireless carriers. Payments for prescription drugs and health services would ideally be made in cash. When it comes to travel, public transportation like a bus or train would be more discreet than a ride-hailing app.
One of the toughest new pieces of legislation in Congress is the My Body, My Data Act. The bill was introduced in June by Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif. Prohibits companies and nonprofits from collecting, and storing. Using or sharing information about a person’s reproductive or sexual health without that person’s written consent.
Bills on Digital Privacy
Another bill, the Not for Sale Fourth Amendment, would prevent law enforcement. And intelligence agencies buy a person’s location records and other personal data from data brokers.
Of course, it’s too early to tell how states have banned abortions. It might try to prosecute residents for seeking medical treatment that is legal in other states. But some government officials are not waiting for that.
The governors of Massachusetts and Colorado recently issued executive orders prohibiting local government agencies. From assisting other states in investigating individuals receiving reproductive health services that are legal in their states unless required by a court order.
How much change might occur is unclear. The tech giants control how they will be collecting our data. The same ones that spent years in marketing campaigns saying they care about privacy. Have no plans to fundamentally change the way they collect information.
Google said this month that it will delete location records when people visit sensitive places like abortion clinics. But it declined to say whether detailed geodata — such as GPS coordinates and route information — would also be deleted.
Some location data analytics companies, including Foursquare, recently announced that they are restricting the use, sharing and sale of data about consumer visits to sensitive locations such as reproductive health clinics. However, law enforcement agencies with court orders can still obtain such location records.
Telephone carriers, which run the wireless Internet backbone for smartphones, have talked about plans to adjust data policies after Roe v. Wade is overturned. AT&T, T-Mobile and CTIA, the trade group representing the carriers, declined to comment, and Frank Boulben, Verizon’s chief revenue officer, said the company had nothing new to announce.
For now, those looking to cover their digital tracks have limited options. Here is what they are.
Self-defense tracking against digital privacy
Several tools can be used to combat surveillance, including virtual private networks, encrypted messaging apps, private web browsers and e-mail accounts for burners, civil liberties groups, and privacy experts.
A virtual private network
What it does: A VPN creates a virtual tunnel that protects browsing information from your ISP. So if their ISP tried to eavesdrop on their web traffic while they were browsing the Planned Parenthood website, the ISP would only see the internet address of the VPN server connected to the VPN service.
What it doesn’t do: A VPN doesn’t hide your device’s location from the cellular network. That’s because a device must register with a nearby cell tower before connecting to a VPN, which would reveal the device’s location to the phone operator, Mr. Eren said.
What it does: When a message is encrypted through a chat service like Apple’s iMessage, Meta WhatsApp, or Signal. It’s scrambled when it’s sent, making it unreadable to anyone but the intended recipient. And it stays that way when it passes through the app’s server. and reaches the recipient.
What it doesn’t do: Encryption makes it difficult, but not impossible, for law enforcement to gain access to message content. For example, agencies can use court orders to search for content in Apple iMessage by demanding access to an iPhone user’s data backed up to iCloud. But Signal, an app funded by donations and grants, keeps minimal data about its users. Making it a must-have app in your anti-surveillance toolbox, researchers said.
What it does: Private web browsers like DuckDuckGo and Firefox Focus surf the web in private mode by default. Which prevents the device from creating records of your searches and web visits.
A private web browser would prevent law enforcement with physical access to the device from viewing your browsing history. It wouldn’t hide browsing data from your ISP. It also wouldn’t hide browsing activity from a website operator like Google or Facebook. So users would have to stay logged out of their internet accounts.
Anonymous email address
What it does: People can set up anonymous email addresses using services like ProtonMail. A free encrypted email service, to try to be unidentifiable.
What it doesn’t do: Prosecutors can use court orders to compel email services to provide personal information. Such as a user’s IP address, or a string of digits associated with a device.
Bottom Line of Digital Privacy
Even if all of the above were followed, there would be no reliable way to escape digital surveillance. And every technology used becomes a new vector for law enforcement to search for data.
There are more extreme techniques to prevent snooping. Like using a cheap computer and drilling a hole in the hard drive before throwing it away. But these are methods for spies and security professionals, not for ordinary people.
So leaving personal technology at home wouldn’t be overboard, security researchers said. It’s important, they said, to keep the phone on so it stays connected to a nearby cell tower. Recording its location. This would cover the digital trail by creating the illusion that one never left home. Also, Read AI for kids.