Ed thinks his HTC One Android phone has been hacked. Can it be tracked? Leo says that every cellphone made is trackable. Period. In order to use a cellphone, you have to connect to a tower, so it's able to triangulate your position at any given moment. If you're worried about that, don't have a cell phone.
The internet is a public place, and whatever you post to it is out of your control. The one exception to this is encrypting your data, however. This will ensure that only you and the recipient will be able to read the data. Here are a few open source tools for public key encryption:
Daryll's wife freaked out because she typed the first letter of her name into a computer she never used before and it said "Hi Gina" to her. Then she downloaded Google Chrome and it mirrored her sister's desktop 10 miles away. Leo says the only way that could have happened is if she was logged into it before, or her sister was.
KNFB Reader reads printed text, but it uses a server-based back end and Paul is concerned about privacy. Leo says that end-to-end encryption fixes that, but the recipient needs to have the encryption as well, making it very inconvenient. But they could work it into the back end on any app. What we do in general is in public though, and there are benefits to that.
With the 113th Congress winding down at the end of 2014, members have decided to do nothing to revise the privacy provisions of the Patriot Act, allowing the National Security Agency to collect data on Americans. Leo says that tech companies are no better. There are a few companies that are going with open source encryption of messages, like Facebook, WhatsApp, and the Google Nexus 6 is encrypted by default.
Dennis is vacationing and he's concerned about privacy on the public hotel Wi-Fi. Leo says that's when a Virtual Private Network, or VPN can come in handy. It's like a tunnel through the internet that is encrypted and nobody can see his traffic. But it will be a little bit slower. He uses TalkaTone and wants an encrypted phone line. Leo says it's a good option, but he also recommends RedPhone. It has end to end encryption.
News broke this week of the U.S. Marshals Service program that's been ongoing since 2007 to gather information from Americans' cellphones. It uses small fixed-wing Cessnas equipped with 'dirtboxes' that imitate cell towers to get identifying information from citizens. According to those familiar with the program, these planes make regular flights and can scoop up data from tens of thousands of phones in densely populated areas. The program is meant to locate individuals under investigation and fugitives, but it collects information from all cellphones.
David wants to talk about privacy of his cellphone. He's worried that Uncle Sam can snoop on him. Leo says that he has good reason to worry because government can get metadata from phone calls with a simple pen registry request that only costs $1.50 and doesn't require a warrant. Can Google Voice be a better option? Or encryption?
Leo says that behavior that gets the NSAs attention will motivate them to follow him more closely. The problem is, legislation like the Patriot Act encourages government to do whatever they can to live up to the spirit of "never again."
James just bought a new computer and he's concerned that Microsoft Security Essentials won't be good enough. Leo says that Microsoft Security Essentials works just fine, but he will have to keep it updated and constantly patch Windows. If he's not patching Windows with updates, even Essentials won't be able to protect him completely. Other things he can do is:
Concerned Consumer is worried about his email being shown while he's using an ATM. He says that's a violation of privacy. Leo says there's no reason to show his email, but it's not the worst thing in the world to happen. The bank really shouldn't display it, though. They can easily asterix out most of the address. It's a very easy fix and it shows that the bank doesn't care that much about privacy.