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A few weeks ago, the San Francisco Public Library hosted an
event with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to
fighting for citizen digital rights. Since
Edward Snowden's NSA spying revelations, surveillance and privacy have become
hot button issues.
If your organization deals
with sensitive information such as health records, confidential reports, or
family issues, you should consider encrypting your data. Encryption is
something you can easily do to protect your rights as an individual citizen, as
well. If that's not enough to motivate you, consider this quote from The Guardian's report on the NSA spying
"Those methods include covert measures
to ensure NSA control over setting of
international encryption standards, the use of supercomputers to break
encryption with "brute force," and – the most closely guarded secret
of all – collaboration with technology companies and internet service providers
themselves. Through these covert partnerships, the agencies have inserted
secret vulnerabilities – known as backdoors or trapdoors – into commercial
Thankfully, you can take action by way of encrypting your
data with third-party software recommended by the EFF. All of this software is free and much of it is
Encrypting emails from the sender to the receiver (also
known as end-to-end encryption) is getting easier to do thanks to PGP (which
stands for Pretty Good Privacy), a data encryption program. OpenPGP
is the free version of PGP and is the most widely used email encryption
standard in the world. Enigmail is an add-on for Thunderbird (an email application from Mozilla) that provides OpenPGP message encryption and authentication to your messages. Lifehacker has a brilliant how-to
on email encryption complete with a video. I highly recommend checking it
You can't do end-to-end encryption for everything, but you
can encrypt a lot of your Internet traffic. But many sites make encryption over
HTTPS difficult to use. Sometimes sites will switch back to unencrypted or
links will be unencrypted. HTTPS
Everywhere is a handy browser extension for Firefox and Chrome from the
EFF. Adding HTTPS to your browser forces websites to encrypt pages whenever possible.
When you have a conversation with a client, staff member, or
volunteer, you want to ensure that it is completely confidential. You can do
end-to-end encryption in chat with off-the-record
messaging (OTR). You can use OTR with existing chat services, such as
Facebook Chat or GChat (Google). The trick with OTR, however, is that you have
to make sure the person you're chatting with also has it installed.
Picture it: You're on public transit after a long work day
and you accidentally leave your laptop behind. Loss of valuable hardware aside,
your laptop is full of confidential data. What if it ends up in the wrong
hands? Encrypting your hard drive can prevent anything happening to your data
(though it might not get your laptop back). Here are some free (both third-party and OS
built-in) software options for encrypting your hard drive:
Are you using any data encryption tools? Is your organization concerned with privacy and surveillance? Please log in and share with us in the comments.
Image: "I Love My Privacy," Shutterstock
Ginny Mies is a Content Curator at TechSoup Global.
For Google Drive there is peace of mind with Innovode Armor - secure easy-to-use encryption.
Not free but with large not for profit discount
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.