Dissident tech enables individuals to retain a degree of personal freedom, privacy, and anonymity in a world where your digital footprints are recorded, tracked, and sold.
As the world begins a longer-term transition to Web 3.0, one possible outcome is that the overreach of Google, Facebook and Amazon will be reduced as individuals regain the rights to their data. Until that time, however, it is up to individuals to protect themselves as best they can.
In this article, you will learn about ‘dissident tech’ and the tools that can help users reduce data leak.
A rebellion against an Orwellian society
The term “dissident tech” was coined by blockchain entrepreneur, Maya Zehavi, and refers to technology that enables individuals to escape the claws of technology conglomerates that are harvesting user data (often without consent) and sharing it with third parties.
Surveillance capitalism, a term used to describe the widespread collection and sale of personal data, has become a new revenue source for technology companies. The full extent of digital surveillance, however, is even more pervasive as Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 when he blew the whistle on Five Eyes mass surveillance programs.
The reality is that if you own an iPhone, use social media, or have Alexa in your home, it is effectively impossible to escape from this new form of digital surveillance. And who doesn’t tweet their opinion or share photos on Instagram? Of course, no is forcing you to use these technologies but no smartphone? That’s a tough one.
Fortunately, for those who care about data privacy, there is dissident tech.
Encrypted calling services, private messaging apps, anonymous internet browsers, and untraceable digital payment systems are all examples of dissident tech. Most of these technologies were not available for easy use by the average individual until recently.
Dissident Tech tools
You don’t need to be a hardline crypto-anarchist, privacy advocate, or political dissident in a totalitarian regime to make use of dissident tech. Anyone who wants to retain some level of privacy in today’s digital world can (and probably should) make use of this technology.
Below, you will find a list of popular privacy tools that you can use to limit the tracking and exploitation of your personal data.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies
While it may not be the most anonymous digital payment method available, Bitcoin provides each individual with the ability to have complete control of their finances. Moreover, privacy-focused wallet Wasabi offers built-in CoinJoin to enable users to increase fungibility and transactional privacy for the BTC held in the wallet.
Additionally, there are cryptocurrencies, such as Monero, that offer anonymous peer-to-peer transactions outside of the legacy banking system.
Self-sovereign finance is on tap.
Encrypted Messaging Apps
Whatever you type in Facebook messenger can be accessed and viewed by Facebook. The same goes for the majority of consumer messaging applications. As a result, the demand for end-to-end encrypted messaging applications has surged.
Users can increase their level of privacy by using apps such as Signal. Signal is an open-source encrypted messaging app that has been recommended by Edward Snowden and a number of privacy advocates.
Private email services
Google can read your emails. Your Gmail account is, therefore, not the best option when it comes to sending emails that contain sensitive or private information.
Fortunately there is a growing number of encrypted email services that aim to provide privacy. While there are always discussions about how anonymous these services really are, popular encrypted email services include ProtonMail, Tutanota, and Thunderbird.
Privacy browsers enable internet users to surf the web without being tracked. The leading privacy-focused browser is the Tor browser, which is especially popular among journalists and political activists.
Tor routes internet traffic through a network of nodes, called the Tor network, to make it very difficult for anyone to track your browsing history.
The Brave Browser now integrates Tor, making it easier to use than ever.
Virtual private networks (VPNs)
VPNs are popular among individuals who prefer to stream the latest movies instead of going to the cinema. Virtual private networks are also immensely popular in countries that restrict certain content. While not all VPNs are created equal, they add a layer of privacy for internet users.
China arguably provides the best use case for VPNs. If you are in mainland China and you want to access your Facebook account, you will need to use a VPN. Unsurprisingly, China banned the use of VPNs in 2018.
The five technologies mentioned in this list are only the tip of the dissident tech iceberg. The market for privacy-enhancing technologies is bigger than you may think and the demand is growing.
Finally, the best advice for anyone who treasures their privacy is to keep as much personal information as possible offline. Ask yourself – do you really need to overshare on social media, enable location tracking on every smartphone app, use Facebook daily, place IoT devices in your home, or discuss sensitive information over the phone or messenger?