Get Smart On the Web

The SmartOn Series is like your Internet owner’s manual: the place to learn the most useful intel and tips from Mozilla policy peeps and programmers.

Ask yourself

If you’re not under investigation, should the government be able to:

  1. monitor your phone calls?

  2. read your emails and view the photos I send?

  3. see what you search for on the Web?

Government surveillance explained

Stakeouts have always been an essential tool for law enforcement and national security. The difference now is that they’ve moved beyond binoculars, bugs and bad guys: surveillance has gone digital. All that data we generate through our daily activities online allows governments to keep an eye on lots of people at once, in hopes of catching the ones who are up to no good. It’s like grabbing a giant haystack just in case there might be a needle inside.

Stored info is vulnerable info

In order to tailor personal experiences for you, virtually every technology company you interact with collects and stores some amount of your personal information. Under certain circumstances, those companies can be forced to turn over your information to governments.

So what should companies do? They can be proactive about protecting users’ information by limiting data collection to what’s needed, making data anonymous where possible, and deleting data when it’s no longer necessary. This is what we practice at Mozilla.

The solution: Safeguards

When surveillance is too broad or lacks key safeguards – like getting a warrant from a judge – it can be abused, either accidentally or on purpose. And our personal privacy is what’s at stake. In order to protect our personal liberties and maintain our trust in the Internet, Mozilla’s policy team proposes that government surveillance must follow three fundamental principles:

Minimal impact

Efforts should be made to collect only the information that’s needed, without compromising Internet infrastructure, technology companies’ data systems, or users’ trust.

Accountability

Governments should be held accountable. This means being transparent and specific about information collection, and answering to independent oversight and to the public.

User security

Strong encryption and security keep us safe from many kinds of criminals. Governments shouldn’t weaken the security of all in the name of spying on a few.

Act before you react

We all have the right to live a full online life without fear of surveillance. Rather than give up your freedom, take back your control.

Take a stand

The first thing we can all do is keep our eyes and ears out – and make our voices heard.

Get informed

Start with a simple online search to learn about your government’s stance on surveillance, so you can make informed decisions about your privacy.

Stay updated

Sign up for the Mozilla newsletter (English only). We actively track issues of mass surveillance and other threats to the Web, so we’ll let you know about opportunities to speak out.

Close your blinds

These quick steps can help protect you from overreaching surveillance practices.

Browse carefully

Always look for the padlock in your browser’s address bar. Find out more.

Cap your camera

Put a sticker in front of your web cam when you’re not using it.

Watch the Wi-Fi

Be careful when using a public Wi-Fi network. Find out more.

Change your locks

Passwords are an essential tool for shielding information from prying eyes.

Choose strong PINs and passwords.

Here are some Mozilla tips for creating a strong password for every device and account. And get in the habit of changing your passwords once a year.

Don’t use a single password everywhere.

Would you use the same key for your front door, your car, and your safety deposit box? Probably not. Keep track with a password manager instead. See instructions for Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera.

Do the two-step

For the best protection, take advantage of 2-step authentication wherever it’s offered. Find out more.

Try encryption

Encryption is a bit like scrambling a frequency: it turns information into codes that can only be read if you have the right keys.

No software provides perfect protection from spying, but Mozilla programmers recommend these easy encryption tools to take your online security beyond basic.

Phone apps

These apps use encryption to secure your phone calls, texts, picture and video communications.

Android
iOS

Device encryption

Use these on your devices to make sure the only eyes that see your personal information are the ones you authorise.

Mac

FileVault — a free and built-in way to encrypt your Mac’s startup disk

Windows

Use BitLocker (Windows Pro) or a free program called Diskcryptor (standard Windows versions).

Linux

Full-disk encryption is usually offered when you set up your system (it’s called LUKS).

Android

See instructions here for your Android device.

iOS

Have an iPhone, iPad or iPod? See instructions here.

Blast your surveillance smarts

Now that you have tools to help protect yourself, spread the word to friends. The only way we’ll get a handle on this fundamental issue of technology is if we keep the conversation going.

  1. Which would you be more comfortable sharing with the government: your bank account or your DNA profile? Tweet this

  2. If you had a digital lockbox that no one could see but you, what would you put in it? Tweet this

  3. Have you stopped sharing certain things online since you found out about mass government surveillance? Tweet this