Brittany Kaiser reveals the tools she uses to protect her data privacy

30 Oct 20201.01k Views

Brittany Kaiser. Image: CAA Speakers

Following her keynote talk at Future Human 2020, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Brittany Kaiser discussed how people can protect their data privacy.

As the Cambridge Analytica scandal showed us, our private data can often not be very private. When the breach came to light in 2018, it was revealed that data from up to 87m Facebook users was used to influence elections and target individuals with very specific advertising.

One of those who provided evidence in an investigation into this scandal was Brittany Kaiser, who spoke yesterday (29 October) at Future Human 2020. Kaiser had built up a background in political campaigning in the US, and in 2015 joined SCL Group, the then-parent company of Cambridge Analytica.

She worked her way up to the role of business development director but left the company in January 2018, just before The Observer published its groundbreaking reports with former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie.

In the years since, Kaiser started the online campaign, #OwnYourData, appealing for transparency in the digital space. She also co-founded the non-profit Digital Asset Trade Association to lobby for change and wrote a book about her experiences at Cambridge Analytica.

Following her talk, Kaiser revealed to the virtual Future Human audience what tools she uses and what she recommends the average internet user do to help make sure their data is not caught up in future Cambridge Analytica-like scandals.

Signal

While WhatsApp might be the messaging app of choice for many, Signal is another option for those with data security in mind. The free app is end-to-end encrypted (E2EE), meaning that it will be almost impossible for third-parties to tap into your conversations.

While compatible with SMS – meaning you can send a Signal message as a standard text message – it will only be E2EE if the other person also has the Signal app and has verified a phone number with an account. The app is particularly popular with cybersecurity experts and journalists who deal with sensitive information, as it’s possible to use an anonymous Google voice number to sign up with Signal.

Users can also choose to auto delete their messages after a certain amount of time and the platform is available on Android, iOS, Mac and PC.

DuckDuckGo

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Google may dominate the search engine world, but DuckDuckGo was launched in 2008 with the aim of doing the opposite of what the tech giant is trying to achieve. Instead of tracking every search and curating your search terms to be as advertiser-friendly as possible, DuckDuckGo shows you the same search terms as everyone else.

This is because it doesn’t profile users which, aside from helping users prevent their data from being shared or sold, helps create non-biased search results. This could also help limit exposure to algorithmic bubbles that try to narrow your results to things Google thinks you’re more likely to agree with or buy.

Very similar in appearance to Google, DuckDuckGo can be added as an extension to web browsers, including Chrome. It’s also available as an app on Android and iOS.

ClearPhone

One potential way of taking back control of your data is doing it at the source: your smartphone. A company called ClearUnited has launched a range of privacy-focused smartphones called ClearPhone.

It is a new type of privacy-first smartphone that runs Android apps but also claims to give consumers total control over their internet experience by blocking ads, cookies, trackers, behaviour profiling, phishing, viruses, spyware and malware. Also, it allows users to block any type of unwanted website or content that they deem inappropriate.

The company has developed three models and the upcoming ClearPhone 220 comes with 4GB of RAM, a 64GB hard drive and a Helio P60 processor. So if you’re looking for a phone that doesn’t come with bloatware and gives a few more options for data privacy, one of the ClearPhone models might be for you.

ProtonMail

In addition to Kaiser’s suggestions, those taking part in the Future Human Q&A after her talk also chimed in with some of their own favourite tools.

One attendee put forward ProtonMail. Founded in 2013, Protonmail is trying to do to email what DuckDuckGo is to search engines. With built-in E2EE for users, the email service is designed to be both free from advertiser snooping and prevent message interception by third parties.

While access to ProtonMail is free, a small monthly fee is needed to lift certain limits. For added protection, its servers have been located in just two locations in Switzerland in order to be outside both the EU and US jurisdictions.

The service is relatively simple to use and mobile versions of ProtonMail include extra security features such as fingerprint authentication.

Colm Gorey is a senior journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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