Through the PRISM – how to disappear online

The NSA is monitoring everything from emails to status updates and it's not just conspiracy theorists wanting to keep personal info under wraps. Misinformation is your biggest weapon, according to one expert
Through the PRISM – how to disappear online

There's just no hiding these days. A little effort and a quick spin on Google is all it takes for you to dig up information on someone. Or vice versa.

And with the news that the USA's National Security Agency (NSA) has direct access to Google, Facebook and Apple's systems (to name a few), online privacy has become a hot-button issue.

Scaremongering aside, we've opened ourselves up the world almost overnight and social networks like Facebook and Twitter have exploded – casting our faces, information and lists of our favourite books and cheeses out into the world.

We chatted to Frank Ahearn – author of How to Disappear and Digital Hit Man – to find out about the risks of opening ourselves up to the world, and what we can do to protect ourselves. Tinfoil hats are optional.

We are commodities

Through the PRISM – how to disappear online

No matter how dull or uninteresting you think you might be, your personal information is "a commodity that drives the internet".

Companies can and will buy your info from third parties and like it or not, there's a good chance your name, email address and possibly more are scattered through more than a few spreadsheets.

"Companies may promise the world, but they can change the terms of service at any time, and no one ever reads them" Ahearn tells us. And he has a point. While we're not saying that Facebook will tweak its T&Cs under the radar for the deeds to your house and rights to walk your dog, the risk of being negligent is real.

"Big businesses always win out over individuals. We need to change and raise our awareness".

Social Media – a double-edged sword

Through the PRISM – how to disappear online

While sites like Facebook and Twitter let you catch up on all your romps about town, you and your friends might not be the only ones perusing photos of you knocking back a few tequilas while dressed in a tiger onesie.

Employers commonly background check potential candidates' social network profiles and sites like Reddit are full of stories of disgruntled job seekers whose interviews were cut short because they refused to fork over their Facebook password.

While this is clearly wrong, Ahearn also puts part of the blame on individuals to some extent. "You wouldn't go around erecting billboards of your exploits, so why would you do it online? If people want complete privacy, they shouldn't be posting anything on social media sites".