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Tech activists labor to make privacy tools accessible for the average internet user

BY Cindy Huang  February 11, 2014 at 11:35 AM EST

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations on the agency’s spying has pushed internet privacy to the forefront of national discourse. On Tuesday thousands of websites will feature a banner urging internet users to call Congress in opposition to the FISA Improvement Act, which allows the National Security Agency to search through personal data without warrant. The protest is part of “The Day We Fight Back” movement, which includes groups like Reddit, Tumblr and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Even though everyday internet and phone users are concerned about who can see and obtain their data, most are not aware of the tools available to help keep their information secure. Technology and privacy activists have been developing these types of tools for a decade, but the average internet user doesn’t know how to use these tools. This issue was the focus at a recent hackathon in Washington, D.C., that brought together technologists, activists and community organizers to make these tools more user friendly. Developers labored over programs like Tor, which allows users to browse the internet anonymously, and Cryptocat, which encrypts your online chats.