7 Ways to Stop Uncle Sam from Spying On You

Admit it or not, we all have secrets. Here's how to keep them safe.

ByABC News
March 4, 2009, 6:02 PM

March 5, 2009 — -- You say you have no secrets. Your life's an open book. You have nothing to hide. But still, do you really want to make it easy for Uncle Sam -- or anyone else for that matter -- to rifle through your contact lists, read your e-mails or monitor your cash flow?

Probably not.

But privacy advocates say it's never been easier for the government to collect information about you.

"We all benefit from the explosion in communications technology, but it also means that there are new and growing caches of sensitive data about us," said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group that, this week, launched a surveillance self-defense campaign.

On issues of digital privacy, Bankston said, the law has not kept pace with the boom in technology. Left out on a limb legally, he continued, Americans need to defend themselves technologically.

Not only do we need to be careful about protecting the information we store on our computers and cell phones, we need to be wary about data stored on the servers and in the databases of third-party companies who don't necessarily make privacy a priority.

ABCNews.com spoke with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other privacy advocates to learn some easy ways to protect our private information. Here are a few of their tips:

1. They can't take what you don't have. So, delete, delete, delete.

Bankston emphasized that it's very important to think carefully about the records you keep and establish a plan for the kinds of documents you hold on to and the length of time you hold on to them.

"If you don't have it, they can't get it," he said, adding that it's unlikely that we need e-mails that date back one, two or three years.

But it's not just documents and e-mail that we need to get rid of.

Check your Web browser regularly to clear the history of sites you've been looking at, the files you've downloaded, cached copies of Web pages and cookies from the sites you've visited.

Although it's convenient, the EFF advises against letting the browser save passwords for Web sites and data you enter into Web forms. If your computer is seized or stolen, all that information becomes exposed.