Chatting in Secret While We're All Being Watched

When you pick up the phone and call someone, or send a text message, or write an email, or send a Facebook message, or chat using Google Hangouts, other people find out what you’re saying, who you’re talking to, and where you’re located. Such private data might only be available to the service provider brokering your conversation, but it might also be visible to the telecom companies carrying your Internet packets, to spy and law enforcement agencies, and even to some nearby teenagers monitoring your Wi-Fi network with Wireshark.

But if you take careful steps to protect yourself, it’s possible to communicate online in a way that’s private, secret and anonymous. Today I’m going to explain in precise terms how to do that. I’ll take techniques NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden used when contacting me two and a half years ago and boil them down to the essentials. In a nutshell, I’ll show you how to create anonymous real-time chat accounts and how to chat over those accounts using an encryption protocol called Off-the-Record Messaging, or OTR.