Edward Snowden's operational security advice for normal humans

There's no one else on Earth who's more familiar with the surveillance capabilities of governments, spy agencies and criminals who is also willing to discuss those capabilities. Edward Snowden's wide-ranging conversation with the Freedom of the Press Foundation's Micah Lee on operational security for normal people is a must-read for anyone who wants to be safe from identity thieves, stalkers, corrupt governments, police forces, and spy agencies.

Much of Snowden's advice takes the form of simple self-help measures (use Tor Browser for sensitive lookups: think about where you take your phone; encrypt your storage, calls and messages with the easy-to-use Signal; turn on two-factor authentication where it's available).

Some of it is more philosophical (ad-blocking is a good idea because dynamic ad-brokerages have bad security and are prone to serving malware).

But Snowden doesn't believe that the solution to surveillance and insecurity is self-help measures. As important as these are, we also need significant political and technological advancements to attain real security and privacy.

The part that really stuck out for me, though, was his discourse on privacy and sharing: just because you choose to share, it doesn't follow that you have no privacy, nor that your privacy is worthless.

Yes, that's selective sharing. Everybody doesn't need to know everything about us. Your friend doesn't need to know what pharmacy you go to. Facebook doesn't need to know your password security questions. You don't need to have your mother's maiden name on your Facebook page, if that's what you use for recovering your password on Gmail. The idea here is that sharing is OK, but it should always be voluntary. It should be thoughtful, it should be things that are mutually beneficial to people that you're sharing with, and these aren't things that are simply taken from you.

If you interact with the internet … the typical methods of communication today betray you silently, quietly, invisibly, at every click. At every page that you land on, information is being stolen. It's being collected, intercepted, analyzed, and stored by governments, foreign and domestic, and by companies. You can reduce this by taking a few key steps. Basic things. If information is being collected about you, make sure it's being done in a voluntary way.

[Micah Lee/The Intercept]