If you’re an internet user living in the United States of America, you may know that the almighty NSA watches pretty much everything you do online, although they pay closer attention to some aspects over others. In fact, the NSA has its own online surveillance program called PRISM that was launched in 2007. You may recognize this from the major Edward Snowden scandal where he stated that the extent of data gathered was much bigger than what everyone was wondering.
What is PRISM and How Can It Hurt You?
In short, PRISM is a program that collects internet communications from at least nine major U.S. internet companies (ISPs) which means that everything you do – from Google searches to e-mails sent, Facebook information and much more – is stored in this government program’s database and can be later turned over if any data matches court-approved search terms. According to documents, this program is “the number one source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytic reports”, accounting to as much as 91% of all the internet traffic the NSA acquires.
What Can I Do About This?
Well, besides being careful about what content you access and keeping in mind that you may be watched, you can protect your back using a VPN. Your VPN traffic is anonymous even for your ISP, and the vast majority of providers protect your information under protocol, firewall and military-grade encryption. Also, some companies go even further in allowing you full anonymity by permitting Bitcoin payment methods, for instance, and keeping no logs of your activity. The latter is very important since you should always check if a no log policy is advertised as well as pay extra attention to where the company offering the VPN service is located since they are completely legal businesses and need to comply with government laws.
What we mean by this is that – besides a company advertising for keeping no logs – if mandatory by the law of the territory they’re headquartered in, such company should be obliged to keep some records. Let’s take the case of PIA (Private Internet Access) as an example. This is one of the best VPNs out there and one of the top recommendations among Reddit users regarding torrenting. The company claims to be a no-log one, but they are indeed located in the U.S.
Although the USA doesn’t have mandatory data retention laws for a fixed period of time, there are certain bills that, if previously ordered by court, can and will be applied to request access to any online information. Despite this, as PIA’s FAQ page highlights, they continue to be a strict no-log company.
For all this you should pay close attention to all characteristics before signing up to any VPN as there can be hidden details that could compromise your anonymity.
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