The overreach of the “War on Terror” and heavy-handed copyright laws lend the cover for any US agency to monitor and control your Internet activity. These, and myriad other laws, mean that your personal/business website can be seized at the drop of a hat under the flimsiest of pretexts. Fortunately, it is relatively easy and cheap to move your digital presence across borders where it can dwell in friendlier jurisdictions.
So writes Nick Giambruno (http://www.mauldineconomics.com/world-money-analyst/) in edited excerpts from his original article* entitled NSA Scandal Shows Importance of Offshoring Your Digital Presence.
[The following article is presented by Lorimer Wilson, editor of www.FinancialArticleSummariesToday.com and www.munKNEE.com and may have been edited ([ ]), abridged (…) and/or reformatted (some sub-titles and bold/italics emphases) for the sake of clarity and brevity to ensure a fast and easy read. This paragraph must be included in any article re-posting to avoid copyright infringement.]
Giambruno goes on to say in further edited excerpts:
An often overlooked ingredient of internationalization is spreading your digital presence (your IP address – which can often pinpoint you to a precise physical address, email account, online file storage, and the components of personal/business websites) across multiple friendly jurisdictions. This move will help mitigate the political risk of subjecting your personal and business Internet presence to a single, intrusive jurisdiction – like the United States.
Internet service providers in the U.S. work hand-in-glove with the U.S. government. Further, if your digital presence is under some form of US jurisdiction, do not assume your Internet activity is private– it isn’t. Google, for example, logs your IP address while you’re online so your entire search history is essentially stored and archived. It’s not just your search history – every email or other information derived from activity on Google is documented and archived on Google’s servers, even if you delete it. With the U.S. government basically enjoying unfettered access to Google’s data, there is literally a treasure trove of personal and business information that is at their fingertips. [Read: Google Yourself and You May Be Amazed – Or Even Dismayed – At What People Know About YOU!]
Fortunately, it is relatively easy and cheap to move your digital presence across borders where it can dwell in friendlier jurisdictions.
Why Diversify Your Email
If you want email privacy, it is prudent to internationalize your inbox and use an offshore email account. Using an email service based in most Western countries provides little, if any, privacy protection.
Most, if not all, of the free email services (Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) are complicit in various government data monitoring schemes. Though there are other jurisdictions that have strong digital privacy laws, Switzerland is a notable standout. In 2010, the Swiss High Court ruled that a user’s IP address is personal information and protected by the country’s strict privacy laws.
If the U.S. government seeks information about your Internet activity, it typically would subpoena the Internet service/email provider directly– if a subpoena is obtained at all. With or without court authorization, you likely will not be aware that the government is investigating you.
If your email is hosted offshore, it is a completely different story. The U.S. government would then be forced to work through the legal system of a foreign country. This can seriously impede or prohibit access to your information if your email service provider is based in a country with strong privacy laws like Switzerland.
It’s not only governments that want to peer into your inbox. Hackers, identity thieves, advertisers, and others are after your personal information.
An offshore email account is not free, though the fees are generally reasonable. Below are some reputable and relatively inexpensive options to consider.
- http://www.SwissMail.org/ Based in Switzerland.
- http://www.neomailbox.net/ Based in Switzerland.
- https://secure.runbox.com/ Based in Norway, which has strong privacy laws. Runbox is generally considered a cheap and quality option.
- https://www.jumpshipservices.co/ Parent company is incorporated in Hong Kong with servers located in Switzerland.
Cloud Data Storage
If you use a US-based data storage company like DropBox or Google, consider using a free alternative based in a friendlier jurisdiction.
Perhaps the best offshore data storage option is Switzerland-based Wuala. Wuala encrypts and stores your files on servers in Switzerland and offers 5 GB of free storage space. See this 2-minute video explaining the service.
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Components for an Online Business
Every aspect of an online business can be diversified internationally to lessen the risk of government intrusion and extend its reach to new customers around the world.
Here are the three main components of any online business that can be internationalized:
- Payment Processors: There are numerous non-US secure payment processors that will transact payments online. They can process credit card payments in various currencies and transfer the funds to your bank account. Processor options in Asia include UnionPay and Alipay; in Europe there is PayFair.
- Domain Name: Many businesses use a “.com”or “.net” or other common US-controlled domain name. This exposes your website to the whims of the U.S. government, which is not necessarily shy about seizing domain names. Fortunately, it is easy and cheap to internationalize your domain name by using, for example, the “.co” domain based in Columbia [Colombia] or the “.bz” domain run by an entity in Belize.
- Hosting: When operating an online business, you must also consider where your site will be hosted. Non-US options for website hosting include providers in Switzerland, Panama, Bermuda, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Providers in these countries will typically not respond to US requests regarding a website without a local court order.
Anonymize and Internationalize Your IP Address
Everyone who is connected to the Internet has an IP address that is easily identified, tracked, and in most cases, can literally pinpoint your exact location.
There are tools available, like virtual private networks (VPN), that enable you to, among other things, change your IP address and thus mask your actual physical location. Some VPN providers let you select the country in which it will appear you are based. Although most VPNs are fee-based services, free options are available, albeit with limitations.
One of the easiest and cheapest (it’s free) ways to browse the web anonymously is to use Tor. Tor is a free combination of tools that includes a customized Firefox browser. In addition to anonymous web browsing, if you are in a country that blocks access to certain websites, Tor will get you around this road block.
Tor provides an anonymous Internet connection through a randomized proxy where your data is stripped of information that identifies its source, summarized in the graphic below:
Tor is easy to install. It comes as a single download for Windows, Mac, or Linux and is as easy to use as any popular web browser.
There are limitations to using Tor. The connection speed is slow and will significantly limit your ability to download files and watch streaming video.
For a service with a fast connection, you can look into Cryptohippie, which fully masks your IP address and other information that could be used to identify you. It is a premium VPN service and very popular among privacy-conscious Internet users.
Diversifying your digital presence is an important part of your overall internationalization strategy. It equips you and your business with significant benefits by reducing the exposure of your digital presence to the whims of bureaucrats. The good news is that implementing these options is cheaper, easier, and faster than most other aspects of internationalization (your savings, your income, and yourself)….
[Editor’s Note: The author’s views and conclusions in the above article are unaltered and no personal comments have been included to maintain the integrity of the original post. Furthermore, the views, conclusions and any recommendations offered in this article are not to be construed as an endorsement of such by the editor.]
*http://www.internationalman.com/78-global-perspectives/945-nsa-scandal-shows-importance-of-offshoring-your-digital-presence?acm=30674_125 (Copyright © 2013 Casey Research, LLC.)
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