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I just read an article about the Importance of anonymity on the web.. Is it possible to maintain anonymity using services like Ubuntu One, and are there any native system tools within Ubuntu that will help me to maintain privacy and/or anonymity? I'm using Ubuntu 11.10 64bit.

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3 Answers

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"Internet Privacy" is a very broad issue and some of the tools that can be used to track you are quite sophisticated, and some of the tracking tools do not have anything to do with your OS.

Here are some very broad suggestions

TOR

https://www.torproject.org/

Your ip address is only one piece of data that can be used to track you. I say this because a lot of people suggest TOR. Not that TOR does not have uses mind you, you should at least be aware of it's limitations as well.

If you are going to use tor with any reliability, you really need to read the documentation. Not just the installation guide, but all of the information, including the information of proxies and DNS leaks.

The tor project has very pertinent information on using tor, including this

https://www.torproject.org/download/download-easy.html.en#warning

In fact, the tor project advises you download the "tor bundle"

https://www.torproject.org/download/download-easy.html.en

Which includes tor, Vidalia , and patched applications.

Browser

Your choice of browser is also important. Some browsers (chrome) "phone home".

http://lifehacker.com/5763452/what-data-does-chrome-send-to-google-about-me

You should take the time to search the information your browser sends.

Browser settings

Your browser settings are important. Most browsers have a privacy mode, you should use it.

The issues here are cookies, flash cookies, html5 cookies.

It is possible for web sites to view your history and bookmarks ;)

Search engines

What search engine do you use ?

Take a look at this page:

https://www.ixquick.com/eng/protect-privacy.html

Passive OS Fingerprinting

Beware your IP address is not the only way you can be tracked.

See

https://panopticlick.eff.org/

technical details

http://www.ouah.org/incosfingerp.htm

If the above link is a little too technical, see

http://net.tutsplus.com/tutorials/other/http-headers-for-dummies/

The thing that "hurts" with these tools, the more you try to hide, the more you stand out. Try it, use a proxy server to filter the information your browser sends and you will be more and more unique.

Conclusions

It is extremely difficult to remain anonymous and requires education and diligence.

You can not be anonymous simply by installing an application, you have to change your behaviors as well (see the tor pages I linked).

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The measures you take to protect your privacy depend on the concessions you are willing to make in order to make use of different services. For example, if you decide to use Facebook, you will have filled out some info which is then visible to your contacts. Any FB applications that you use will have had access to some of your info and could just as well have recorded and stored it in a database elsewhere. If you use a service like Google Docs or Dropbox, you are giving your files to a third party and trusting that they will not breach that trust.

A lot of your privacy measures will be up to you and the information you supply, I don't think tools can help you very much. Sure, you could browse through a proxy but if you give information to a website, then that kind of defeats the point.

A few things you can attempt to do:

  1. When signing up to a website that you won't be visiting regularly, lie about your details. But remember the lies in case you ever need them again.
  2. Browse with cookies turned off, although you may experience a somewhat crippled web experience with this
  3. Browse with JavaScript turned off: You can accomplish this with a browser extension called 'scriptblock' and whitelist the websites that you need/trust. Again, it'll be a very different experience with scripts turned off. Some websites simply won't work.
  4. Browse using a proxy service (you can even pay for proxy servers) so that your IP address isn't available to the party recording it
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Anonymity

For anonymity you can use Tor, which will make your real IP virtually impossible to detect. When you setup Tor you will use internet through a proxy, so all the information you send or receive (including Ubuntu One file transfers) will go through Tor and be made anonymous.

Security

For security, I believe there are some commercial antiviruses for Linux (though I don't really see a need for one, been using Ubuntu for years without antivirus and computer runs perfect).

You can also use a firewall, I believe Ubuntu runs UFW naturally. This will prevent people from breaking into your computer through ports.

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