Journalism in the Public Interest


Discussion: How To Protect Your Privacy Online

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Update 6/26: The House passed the USA Freedom Act on May 22nd, though several lawmakers and privacy advocates say pressure from the intelligence committee left it "gutted" and "watered down."

The House is expected to vote soon on the USA Freedom Act. If passed, the bill would impose several new restrictions for surveillance operations, including limits on the NSA’s ability to collect phone records of US citizens. The bill would also create a special office to advocate for the public in front of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Read Congress’ full summary here.)

Both Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have lauded the bill as an important next step in checking the nation’s surveillance powers. But others have raised questions. How far would this bill really go to protect your privacy online?

To answer all things online security, reporters Jeff Larson and Julia Angwin hosted a Reddit IAmA chat. In partnership with The Guardian and The New York Times, Jeff helped discover the NSA’s efforts to crack encryption methods and undermine Internet security. Julia tried a slew of strategies for protecting her privacy while researching and writing her latest book, Dragnet Nation.

Read the transcript for our reporters' thoughts on surveillance reform and privacy tips. 


  • According to Angwin, the United State's historical approach to transparency on wiretaps could provide a good roadmap for all electronic surveillance.
  • For an "easy entrance into encryption," Angwin recommends encrypting your texts and phone calls with apps, like Silent Circle's iPhone apps or WhisperSystem's Android apps.
  • Larson provided tips for journalists dealing with big document sets, from Overview to Hadoop clusters. 
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