How to disappear

Watching them watching us
Watching them watching us

An article by Nick Rosen, Editor of Off-Grid, details the steps we can all take to fight back against the surveillance society of government and private company databases.

The story, Ten ways to Thwart Big Brother, in The Observer newspaper, lists ten simple actions, from wearing a hoodie in shopping malls, to special software which protects your identity online, to driving a horse and cart on the roads in order to avoid the automatic numberplate recognition systems.

This week also sees the publication of The Road to Southend Pier: One Man’s Struggle Against the Surveillance Society by Ross Kemp, a look at everything from CCTV Cameras in the High Street to the records the FBI keep on each and every one of us.


1 Buy an untraceable mobile phone

Travel to a town you have never visited before, to an area with no CCTV cameras and ask a homeless person to buy a pay-as-you-go mobile phone for you. That way no shop will have your image on its CCTV. You will also have an anonymous mobile.

In order to keep your anonymity, top it up in a shop with no CCTV outside. Or dispense with the phone altogether and return to the humble payphone, now the preserve of tourists and the super-poor.

Even if you stick to your traceable phone, leave it switched off whenever possible to avoid having your movements tracked. Many phones are still traceable, so you need to take the battery out to be certain. If you have a Bluetooth phone, keep the service switched off because this is now being tested for advertising and other marketing activities.

2 Safeguard your email

If you use one of the free, web-based services like Gmail, your communications are being stored to build up a picture of your interests. Instead, you can use a service called Hushmail to send encrypted emails. Or work out a private code with friends you want to communicate with.

You do not need an email address of your own. One hacker I spoke to sends emails from cybercafes via The Observer website, using the service which allows anyone to send any article to a friend. He embeds his message into the covering note which goes with the article.

Others with their own computer use the free XeroBank browser (in preference to Explorer or Firefox), which includes several privacy-enhancing add-ons and sends all data through a network ‘cloud’ which hides most of the data you normally give away as you use a computer, but at the cost of reduced speed (https://xerobank.com/xB_browser.html).

3 Safeguard your computer and your files

There is sophisticated software that deletes all traces of your activities from your computer. Assuming you don’t have access to this, it is still worth remembering the data about you contained inside each file. Many digital photos, for example, contain within them the serial number of the camera that took them. Word documents contain the name of the author as well as traces of previous drafts.

One Response

  1. The XB browser is uses Tor (https://tor.eff.org) to anonymize it’s traffic. A better solution than XB is to install tor and a firefox plug-in called torbutton. The anonymity properties of the XB browser are potentially compromised by its exclusive use of a proprietary segment of the Tor network, among other possible problems.

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