When the details of the NSA surveillance program called PRISM came out, people worldwide were outraged (well, all but the conspiracy theorists who were proven correct, shouting “I told you so” to prior disbelievers.) Now, people wonder, “How can I protect my data and myself online?”

NSA TrackingOne way: decrease reliance on the cloud. But is that even possible? According to an IHS iSuppli report conducted in 2012, it is predicted that by 2017, a staggering 1.3 billion users will subscribe to cloud services of some kind. Whether bank information, files, videos, or photos, it all requires the cloud. But after PRISM details were leaked, users are thinking twice.

 NSA Tracking: How Can You Protect Your Data?

Because the majority of tracking is done on the server side of things, there isn't much an Internet user can do unless they give up the cloud altogether. However, there are steps you can take to avoid the likelihood you are a tracking target.

Here are six ways you can decrease your reliance on the cloud:

1.  NSA Tracking: Ditch Dropbox

Although cloud-based storage is convenient, especially for collaborations, services like Google Drive and Dropbox are easily trackable. Rather than sending everything to these services, save them to your hard drive or an physical external drive. This will remove the risk of someone else being able to access your data completely.

To tighten up the security of your hard drive, you should think about disk encryption. A password protects your data, even if someone steals your hard drive, and only someone with the password can access your files. If you are a Mac OS X user, rely on FileVault to encrypt your disk, while Windows users (Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8 Enterprise, and Windows 8 Pro) can trust BitLocker that comes pre-installed to keep their files under lock and key. Don't have any of these operating systems? You can download TrueCrypt, DiskCryptor, and other third-party programs for free.

2.  NSA Tracking: Goodbye, Webmail

Rely on Gmail or Hotmail? Don't. Switch to your installed email client such as Mozilla Thunderbird, Microsoft Outlook, or Apple Mail. Your cloud-based web email client will be exposed to tracking, while these locally installed options will be safe and sound.

Encryption is another method of protection when sending mail to other servers. The easiest way: GNU Privacy Guard. Windows and Linux users can download Claws Mail, while OS X users can download the GPGMail plugin.

3.  NSA Tracking: No More Online Banking

According to a 2012 Pew Internet report, 61% of Internet users conduct their banking online. Yes, this is a big timesaver, but more of your sensitive data is being put into the cloud, therefore being more susceptible to tracking. To lower your risk, go back to old-school paper banking.

4.  NSA Tracking: Desktop Photo App

Yes, Flickr is great. We all love that Grandpa Charlie, 2,000 miles away in CA, can view your recent vacation photos, and that all of your photos are in one place, easy to access in the event your computer crashes. However, to reduce tracking likelihood, email those pictures to Grandpa Charlie (encrypted, of course), and store your pics on an external drive.

5.  NSA Tracking: Back To MS Word

Just like with Google Drive and Dropbox, Google Docs is a great way to collaborate with others on a big project. However, to keep your data from being a tracking target, rely on MS Word or another word processing program stored on your hard drive instead.

6.  NSA Tracking: Encrypted USB Drive

This article has mentioned an external drive a few times. It's a great way to have your own little personal cloud at home, offering loads of space for your photos and documents while keeping your hard drive free of clutter. However, it's not easy to travel with an external drive. A USB thumb drive is a great option for documents on the go, but assure it is an encrypted. This keeps your data safe in the event you've lost it.

Would it be tough for you to consider going as cloud-less as possible? Do any of these suggestions strike you as impossible? Tell us how you feel by commenting!

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