The Privacy Lover’s Gift Giving Guide

gifts-644966_1920It's that time of year again: while religious and spiritual beliefs may differ, for many of us December is a time to break out annual gift lists and start shopping for loved ones. So what do you get for that special someone who needs help protecting their privacy, particularly now that tinfoil hats are out? Whether you’re looking to start your child out on the right privacy path, teach your teen, spark awareness with friends or pick up the pace yourself, here are a few recommendations for a secure, silent night this holiday season.

  1. Stealth Wear: developed by designer Adam Harvey and sold via Privacygiftshop.com, Stealth Wear is a collection of garments that shields against surveillance technology. While intended more as a proof of concept to get buyers more engaged with privacy, the science behind the designs is sound, and the look very chic. If the ‘Anti-Drone’ Hijab or ‘Anti-Drone’ Hoodie are not your recipient’s cup of tea, also consider related items, such as  the "Data Never Dies" poster, or present a makeup set after downloading a few design options from the “look book” by CV Dazzle. A word to the wise however; while designed to keep your features unrecognizable to computer feeds, real life application of the looks have shown the wearers that you will stick out in crowds!
  2. A VPN Subscription. Since their inception, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have grown in popularity with individual and business users alike, and for good reason: VPNs offer better security and privacy of transmitted data through encryption, authentication and integrity, making it safer to transport confidential information, and use proxy servers to protect personal information and location.  Search for VPN providers in your favourite search engine and you’ll come across lots of different services. Some  popular options include Tunnel Bear, Express VPN, IPVanish,  and Buffered.
  3. RFID Shields:  Practical and perfect for any person on your list, particularly those who like to travel. RFID Shields protect the sensitive information on bank and credit cards from wireless skimming theft, by blocking the signal between reader and your card. These shields can be found from a multitude of manufacturers and styles, from single-card protection to fully functional wallets. Popular brands include Lewis N Clark, Flippside, Sharkk and others.
  4. Privacy Books. When it comes to privacy, half the battle is understanding the different ways your data can be collected, and how to protect yourself. A search through Amazon or Chapters will reveal lists of reading on the subject, with more consistently added as the topic evolves and practices change year to year. Recommendations include Data & Goliath by Bruce Schneier, Techno-Creep by Thomas Keenan and Nothing to Hide by Daniel J. Solove . Want to teach your children / teen about not giving out personal information? Consider Raising Digital Families for Dummies or The Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy: Practical Tips for Staying Safe Online by Violet Blue.
  5. Jumpapp Games. Truthfully, picking a gift that protects your child's privacy is not hard. So long as the item cannot connect to the Internet or acquire data during play, most dolls, toys and games are just fine. However, with the increase of online entertainment for kids, parents may find themselves caught between wanting to encourage their young one's technology curiosity, and taking care that offspring is safe while dong so. This gets particularly uncomfortable when reports come up that just because an app is made for kids, doesn’t mean their privacy is well protected. One option is a game from developer Jumpapp, such as their “Toy Repair Workshop”, or “Knights, Dragons and Puzzles”. What I like about Jumpapp is the clear and upfront notification of privacy : the apps minimize data collection, and are built with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in mind.
  6. Screen Protectors: there are a number of these on the market, primarily to protect electronic device screens from wear, tear & scratches, but some developers have included information protection as part of their package. Keep unwanted eyes away from your screen with Anti Spy Tempered Glass such as this product developed by Elekmate, or the frosted model by SW-Box.
  7. Protected USB Key. Honest truth: if you want your data to be secure, don’t be fast to place it on a USB stick, and if you want to use USB stick at work, be sure to talk to your IT department first. Portable drives are excellent as an easy way to transport files, particularly in the days of pre-cloud drives; however that same portability and easy of information sharing can be a massive security hole. Sometimes however, other options prove ineffective, and we need that drive. If that’s the case, be sure to use a USB that is encrypted right from the get-go: consider the Ironkey Personal D200, the Defender 2000 from Kanguru or  the DataTraveler Vault by Kingston. If you want something a little different, there’s also ‘What’s the secret password’ USB.
  8. My Password Journal. Note to readers: DO NOT USE THIS as a place to actually write down and keep passwords. You could, but that’s really not the purpose. From a privacy perspective, the idea behind a gift of My Password Journal is to both provide a place for your child to write what’s one their mind, and teach them about privacy by providing them with an early ‘safe space’. Part of teaching privacy is teaching trust, respect and value: by respecting your child’s privacy you teach them that their personal information is of value, and to respect the same of others. Remember, this is your child’s safe space to work out their thoughts: do not snoop!
  9. Privacy Cover. Do you know who is watching you right now? While the idea of being recorded without your knowledge might seem a bit paranoid, research has shown that webcams can be hacked, a disturbing thought as the technology is frequently integrated in many devices for the home. If you think you’re party would like a little extra security, particularly for devices in more vulnerable transmitting locations, consider getting a cover for the devices, such as the SpiShutter for most desktops, or the Privacy Cover for the Xbox Kinect. If you like PC customization, this is also an easy way to add a little style to your device: consider the 3D Printed Konijntje, or the Kissclip.
  10. Privacy Please by OPI. Okay, so this last item isn't likely to protect or provide much privacy to the wearer, but too sweet not to add on to the list. Privacy Please by OPI Nail Lacquer gives nails a gentle glow, slipping on a shade of pretty pink. Perfect as a stocking stuffer, or for putting together a professional look before bringing the new privacy agreement to the board of directors.

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