Beating the digital titans

You can take action at a practical and technological level – and a political one.



Here are a few simple ways to....

Avoid surveillance:
■ Use DuckDuckGo for internet searches; it doesn’t track you. Ixquick is a Dutch option.
■ Leave your cell phone at home, or at least turn off the location services on your smartphone when you don’t need them.
■ Facebook is much more public than it appears; avoid making pages for children and tagging photos of them online.
■ Refrain from using Google Calendar or webmail or cloud backup.
■ Decline to discuss certain topics via email; it’s harder for automatic systems to monitor messages on paper that are photographed and sent by email – a system used by free-speech activists in China.
■ Don’t divulge more personal information than necessary. Be wise to the personal data-mining function of many ‘loyalty’ schemes, ‘prizes’ and online surveys.
■ Use cash instead of cards.

Block surveillance

There are several simple plug-ins available. For detailed and up-to-date advice, see

In the meantime:
■ Disconnect and Better Privacy help block sites that track you on the internet and remove long-term super-cookies.
■ Tor is a good tool to protect your anonymity when browsing the web.
■ Microsoft’s Bitlocker and Apple’s FileVault 2 encrypt your hard drive.
■ Off the Record or Cryptocat for secure instant messaging.
■ GPG and Enigmail for email encryption.
■ SilentCircle for mobile-phone communications.
■ HTTPS Everywhere encrypts your web-browsing (you’ll see https at the beginning of a URL instead of http).

And some low-tech options:
■ To prevent someone taking pictures of you remotely through your computer, just put a sticker over the camera.
■ To stop your smartphone tracking you, put it in the fridge.

Distort surveillance!
■ If you have loyalty cards, swap them with friends and neighbours.
■ Give false information on webforms.
■ For direct activists, having a cell phone that you leave at home may arouse less suspicion on the part of the authorities than not having one at all.
■ In addition to regular cookie cleaning you can have your browser configured to delete your cookies every time you close it. It won’t stop surveillance, but it makes it harder to connect all the small surveillances and will reduce the number of targeted ads you get.


■ Support campaigns to break up internet monopolies and ensure that internet companies pay taxes in the countries in which they get revenue.
■ Call for stronger privacy protection for citizens and tougher penalties for corporate infringements of data protection. Resist government attempts to pass laws making it easier for them to invade your privacy.
■ Notice surveillance, talk about it, object and sign petitions. Support calls for greater transparency from internet companies and assert your right to access, control and delete personal data.
■ Use and support Open Source technologies (Libre, instead of Word) and co-operative businesses. Fairmondo and EthicalBay are alternatives to eBay.
■ Several existing documents can be cited: Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000); Madrid Privacy Declaration 2009; OECD Privacy Framework 1980; EU Data Protection Directive 1995.

The following organizations are doing good work:

Privacy International
Has organized more than 50 campaigns around the world.

Electronic Frontier Foundation
Leading organization defending civil liberties in the digital world.

Electronic Frontiers Australia
Promotes digital freedom, access and privacy.

Access Now
Strong focus on corporate transparency.

Center for Democracy and Technology
Washington-based organization with mission to promote an open, innovative and free internet.

Open Rights Group
Current campaign against mobile-phone companies exploiting their customers’ data.

Brussels-based European Digital Rights advocacy group.

Ethical Consumer
Has a Boycott Amazon campaign, with practical advice.

Free Software Movement of India
Campaigning, information and awareness raising.

BOOKS recommended:

Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier, Norton, 2015.

Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus by Douglas Rushkoff, Portfolio Penguin, 2016.

Digital Disconnect by Robert McChesney, Blackwell, 2013.

This page draws extensively from the work of Bruce Schneier at