7 Ways to Stop Uncle Sam from Spying On You

You may think you're not tech-savvy enough to say it, let alone do it. But then again, once upon a time the Internet was out of reach for most of us.

Encryption isn't as complicated as it sounds, and privacy experts say it's becoming a modern necessity.

"Why is it worth it to get a lock for your house?" Bankston asked. "Your computer is your virtual house."

A panoply of software exists to encrypt either the full disk or individual files, depending on your needs. The EFF recommends using mainstream programs rather than obscure ones because they're more likely to have been reviewed by experts.

If you don't want to go through the trouble of encrypting the files on your computer because you don't think they're sensitive enough, experts say at the very least you should encrypt your communications.

It's a little known fact that some e-mail and instant messaging clients offer an encrypted option. Gmail, for example, allows users to choose to use the encrypted option in their preferences, although Yahoo and Hotmail do not. Microsoft Office Live -- Microsoft's answer to Google Docs -- also offers an encrypted option.

These encryption tools won't stop someone from getting the data after it's sent, but Chris Soghoian, a student fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said they'll prevent the "corrupt insider" or the "creepy guy in the cyber cafe" from spying on your conversation.

"One of the biggest threats to people's privacy is instant messaging communication," he cautioned.

Soghoian said free tools such as the Adium for Mac users and Pidgin for PC users can encrypt your conversations, whether you use AIM, Yahoo, Google Chat or other platforms.

Keep Your System Current

3. Run the most up-to-date browsing software.

Soghoian told ABCNews.com that running the newest Web browsing software is another easy best practice that not enough people employ.

Whether you use Internet Explorer, Safari or something else, make sure it's been "released in the past few months, not the past few years," he said.

The newer versions automatically update to make sure you're using the most secure browser.

4. Manage your cookies.

Aside from the sweet temptations in a jar, cookies are pieces of information used to track your browsing habits online. If your browser is set to accept them, they will tell a site when you visit a page and what you do on it.

It's difficult to block them altogether, because if you did you wouldn't be able to log into some sites or make travel reservations and other online transactions. But privacy experts say you should try to manage them.

For example, the EFF says that on many browsers you can choose a cookie setting that only allows cookies to persist until you quit the browser. Other users could choose a setting that lets them manually decide whether or not to accept cookies from each site they visit.

5. Consider anonymity.

Released just a few months ago, Tor is an free, easy-to-use tool designed to protect your identity online by hiding your IP (Internet protocol) address. Not only does it anonymize your Web browsing, publishing and instant messaging, it also encrypts part of your communication on the Internet.

It is recommended by EFF, Human Rights Watch and Global Voices Online.

Storage Options

6. Store your data locally whenever possible.

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