Surveillance of Internet Activity
The Internet is an efficient, but not particularly private, method of communication.
To begin with, whatever you say in a chat room or IRC channel is necessarily a public statement—you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in this context. Using a nickname or handle doesn’t guarantee that you’re anonymous—such identifiers can generally be traced to their owners.
In addition, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may have already put you on notice in their “Terms of Service” that, under certain circumstances, they’ll voluntarily disclose “content”—not just illegal content, but also material that may only be “vulgar” or “otherwise objectionable.” And with a simple subpoena, the government can obtain the content of users’ communications as well as information about users, including addresses and financial data (such as credit card or bank account numbers).
There has been an increasing amount of litigation and legislation concerning Internet privacy. For example, the USA P
With somewhat more effort, the government can also get a wire-tap warrant for your email, which lays bare all aspects of your electronic communications.
To keep the content of your electronic communications private, encrypt them with PGP Mail. PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy, and it’s been proven strong enough to deter government attempts to penetrate your email. To get the latest version of PGP Mail (either the complete version6 or the freeware version), go to http://www.philzimmermann.com/. (Note that Zimmermann ends with two n’s.).