Defending Privacy in the Surveillance State and Fragmenting Internet

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Yves here. One of the problems with defending privacy, much like masking, is other people. I am very anti-social and still encounter pressure to engage in activities that expose way too much information. If you are serious about it, you can’t share photos and need to avoid having pix taken in the first place. You need to resist pressure to use “free” apps like WhatsApp and Line since harvesting your data is presumably what pays for the service. Not driving a car helps, since you won’t have your to-ing and fro-ing caught by plate readers. So does using cash whenever possible.

This post focuses on the government efforts to increase surveillance and points out that supposedly secure services have too often proven to be honeypots. Yours truly has been paranoid about apps (I assume like phones they have back doors; many like Line on the Mac require access to your Contacts to function, or like Uber in the bad days, require you to opt out for the app not to hoover them up). But limiting your footprint is hard, and I must confess to being slack on some fronts, like leaving my phone at home most of the time rather than rigorously using a Faraday bag.

I am surprised that Robert Heilein’s answer (in his book Friday) to the problem of lack of privacy, of using live couriers to carry important communications, hasn’t gotten a following.

By John P. Ruehl, an Australian-American journalist living in Washington, D.C., and a world affairs correspondent for the Independent Media Institute. He is a contributing editor to Strategic Policy and a contributor to several other foreign affairs publications. His book, Budget Superpower: How Russia Challenges the West With an Economy Smaller Than Texas’, was published in December 2022. Produced by Economy for All a project of the Independent Media Institute

Following the reapproval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on April 20, 2024, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer proudly declared that “bipartisanship has prevailed here in the Senate.” Despite the increasing rarity of bipartisanship in recent years, support for government surveillance continues to unite large majorities across party lines. Established in 1978, FISA allows government surveillance and data collection of individuals suspected of espionage or terrorism within the U.S., marking one of the many mechanisms aiming to ensure total federal oversight of communications.

Governments ranging from democracies to dictatorships, socialist to capitalist have all developed policies and bureaucracies for maximum data collection and mass surveillance as their populations become digitized. The centralized nature of modern communications grids facilitates many forms of surveillance. As internet services centralize domestically and the internet fragments internationally, countering government and private sector abuse of surveillance or developing alternative systems will require steady public pressure and some ingenuity to attain real enforcement.

One of the takeaways that a review of the history of modern surveillance, from the early days of the telephone to so-called privacy apps like Signal, tells us is that efforts to escape, undermine, and subvert the surveillance efforts of governments tend to be counterproductive. They are often originated by states themselves as part of a dialectic process that enables more comprehensive surveillance in a series of stages or just produces greater surveillance infrastructure in response to the attempt to develop alternative communications systems.

In the pre-internet era, authorities would tap into telegraph and later telephone lines to intercept communications, often requiring access to the physical infrastructure of the networks. Mail sent by post could meanwhile be intercepted and opened. As communication systems evolved, so too did government techniques to surveil them. The switch from copper wire phone systems to fiber optic cables and the spread of the internet initially threatened the NSA’s ability to monitor communications, for example, until the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) in 1994. Communications companies were required to build back doors for the NSA to monitor remotely, while the NSA also clandestinely worked on developing technologies to monitor communications.

U.S. domestic surveillance powers have been routinely updated during the 21st Century, including the enactment of the 2001 PATRIOT Act, the 2015 Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), and the 2018 FISA reauthorization. The 2013 Snowden Leaks revealed the NSA asked for funding to “insert vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems”, and it is constantly pushing for backdoors into encryption software to access communications and devices. Major mobile carriers acknowledge the inclusion of preinstalled surveillance and data mining technology in devices supported by Google, Apple, and Microsoft, while the NSA’s PRISM program extracts data from all major technology companies with or without their consent.

U.S. companies primarily cooperate with the U.S. government under the banner of “surveillance capitalism,” allowing them to capitalize on their data and surveillance capabilities both for government and private endeavors. Similar to other countries, most of the U.S. internet traffic now flows through a handful of large entities rather than numerous smaller ones. Furthermore, U.S. user data is also more available to the private sector compared to that of EU citizens, with companies like Facebook and Google even compiling dossiers on non-users to enhance targeted advertising.

In addition to ad monetization, lax privacy laws also play a role in security. Established in 1976, the third-party doctrine allows U.S. law enforcement to access user data without a warrant. The Ring video system, acquired by Amazon in 2018, created hundreds of partnerships with U.S. police departments to help them gain access to user recordings, while numerous other companies actively provide law enforcement agencies with access to user data.

The issue extends beyond monetization and law enforcement. Political actors have recognized the potential of data to shape politics. In 2018, Facebook faced scrutiny when it was revealed that private company Cambridge Analytica was permitted to access user data and target them with political ads to influence their voting behavior. Moreover, anti-abortion groups have caused controversy by using location data to send ads to those who visited Planned Parenthood centers.

Of similar concern is the abuse of data by employees. In 2017, reports surfaced of employees of Ring doorbell company spying on female users, while Amazon’s Alexa retained recordings of children long after parents requested their deletion. Hackers have also accessed user data and feedsof Ring customer cameras across the U.S.

Alongside extensive domestic surveillance and data collection methods, the expansion of the internet in the 1990s led to a surge in global U.S. surveillance and data collection capabilities. Despite the promotion of a “global multi-stakeholder model of internet governance”, U.S.-based Organizations like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), allowed Washington considerable control over the governance, standards-setting, and the activities of major internet actors. While these advantages for Washington may have declined since the 1990s, the rise of Big Tech and other factors guarantee the U.S. ongoing influence over much of the internet.

The disclosure of ECHELON in the 1990s exposed a global signals intelligence (SIGINT) network operated by the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (Five Eyes), while the Snowden leaks in 2013 uncovered further aspects of the surveillance alliance. Significant data sharing also occurs between the U.S. and European countries, often facilitated through organizations like NATO.

The 2022 interception of a British citizen’s Snapchat message about a potential plane bombing, leading to the escorting of the plane by the Spanish air force, demonstrates strong Western data and surveillance collaboration. Multilateral efforts are supplemented by national measures like France’s Intelligence Act and the UK’s “Snooper’s Charter.”

Nonetheless, the U.S.-led internet faces mounting challenges as various blocs and countries impose restrictions and tighten control over their networks. The Snowden leaks exposed the ability of the Five Eyes to circumvent their domestic spy laws and even target high-profile officials like the German chancellor. Partly in response to the leaks, the EU introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 to limit data intrusion by foreign states and corporations and improve regulations on data collection.

Countries more hostile to Washington are also asserting greater autonomy over their data and communications networks, leading to more apparent cracks in the global internet. The Russian government’s takeover of Russian social media site VKontakte in 2014 and increasing pressure on Telegram and Yandex in recent years have helped reinforce the Kremlin’s concept of a “sovereign internet.” The Russian government has conducted several trial runs of disconnecting the country from the global internet, while its efforts to centralize control and quell dissident opinion have intensified since the launch of the war in Ukraine, including blocking access to Western sites.

Moscow has also been re-establishing surveillance and data-sharing agreements with Central Asianstates since the Soviet collapse, using these arrangements to target Russians who fled abroad after the invasion of Ukraine. China’s autonomy from the U.S.-dominated internet infrastructure is more advanced, and in Central Asia and other regions, Chinese companies vie with Russian counterpartsfor the export of surveillance and data collection technologies.

Notably, Western companies have played an influential role in assisting authoritarian governments to enhance their communications control and reduce dependence on U.S.-led internet infrastructure. U.S. corporations like Cisco helped build the “Great Firewall of China” and domestic surveillance capabilities, while Palantir assisted the United Arab Emirates. Nokia meanwhile contributed to Russia’s development of its System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM), which has also been replicated across Central Asia.

In response to concerns over decreasing privacy from government surveillance and private sector data collection, various initiatives have emerged in the decades since the internet appeared. These range from underground forums to marketplaces for illicit goods and servers, as well as blockchain technology, a decentralized method of storing and sharing data through computers. Search engines like DuckDuckGo position themselves as untraceable, while virtual private networks (VPNs) encrypt internet traffic to provide users with anonymity and data security. Tor, a software that reroutes and encrypts internet traffic through several to protect user identities, went public in 2002. A follow-up app, Signal is internationally believed to be a viable encrypted and private messaging platform.

Together, these components constitute what users are told is the Dark Web or darknet, an obscured part of the internet that is perceived as a means to evade government surveillance and control. But many of them have their roots in the same surveillance world that their marketers claim to be opposed to. Meanwhile, DuckDuckGo’s privacy has been questioned, VPNs can be compromised, and flaws in Tor’s code are found regularly. Early U.S. government involvement and funding in both Tor and Signal suggest they are less secure than promoted. Tor was originally developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in the mid-1990s before it went public, while Signal was partly funded by the government-sponsored Open Technology Fund (OTF), which has ties to the U.S. intelligence community.

The appointment of Katherine Maher to the chairman of Signal’s board in 2023, who previously worked for the National Democratic Institute and Foreign Affairs Policy Board, has also raised questions about the app’s security. Other anti-surveillance projects developed partly by the OTF, including Open Whisper Systems, CryptoCat, LEAP, and GlobaLeaks, have also had their authenticity questioned.

Dark Web-affiliated systems are also used by states. Russian authorities began cracking down on VPN services, Tor, and other services just before the war in Ukraine, but a year later, they cautiously permitted the expansion of these closely monitored channels to circumvent sanctions. The Iranian government also has a long history of using the dark web to more effectively evade U.S. oversight, while also striving to prevent its citizens from using it to undermine state authority. Even the CIA has developed its own Tor website for communication.

To avoid the dilemma of choosing between a government-monitored internet in collaboration with Big Tech and a lawless Dark Web of dubious anonymity, a middle ground termed Web 3.0 has emerged. Characterized by buzzwords like decentralization and blockchain technology, its proponents seek a more community-driven and peer-to-peer internet landscape with less surveillance and control by the current arbiters of the internet.

However, without true anonymity, these transparency efforts will make surveillance easier. Governments not only develop national and international communication systems but also support private initiatives and those developed by Academia to maintain control over all potential communications systems, including Web 3.0. If certain systems emerge that threaten government surveillance measures, they are either shut down, like the Silk Road, or compromised by various methods including operatives in both U.S. and foreign companies. Instead, Web 3.0 may be more useful in preserving the more open and connected aspect of the internet, though it will still be widely monitored.

Computer hardware and operating systems enable these apps to function inside devices that permit an overlay of surveillance on user activity, no matter the alleged privacy capabilities promised to users. The U.S., Australia, and other countries’ efforts to ban Chinese-made Huawei devices highlight the ease of data collection and surveillance through such technologies, revealing similar capabilities in U.S.-made devices, despite the alleged security provided by privacy apps and other measures. The escalating rivalry between the U.S. and China in developing massive new undersea internet cables shows the intensifying efforts of rival blocs to secure their own communications and surveil others.

Without the ability to create an alternative system not dominated by governments and Big Tech, stronger public oversight over their surveillance and data collection methods is essential for personal privacy. The 34 Senators who voted against FISA’s reauthorization in April demonstrated bipartisan support exists for reducing the government’s surveillance and data collection powers, while 15 U.S. states have so far adopted stronger data privacy laws for consumers in recent years.

Creating a clear and enforceable punishment system for both government agencies and private companies for data and surveillance abuse will be essential for any attempt to establish greater privacy safeguards. Increasing public awareness of the overt surveillance capabilities of devices and apps, even amidst the massive growth of the privacy protection industry, is a quick way to advance this cause.

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  1. Terry Flynn

    The “other people” problem is akin to the “weakest link in the chain” idea. It made me query on an internet geek forum just how secure encrypted partitions were, since once unlocked, many operating systems create copies of files to enable speedier read-write access and it was far from clear (to me) that these could not be accessed from others if my PC was not air-gapped. The answers I got did not reassure me.

    However, I certainly was way ahead of the curve in terms of UK healthcare. The NHS and its associated funding bodies were still just requiring “password protected computers” when I’d already moved all patient-sensitive datasets to encrypted drives using methods that forums (and someone I knew) confirmed were “exasperating” to GCHQ. I strongly suspect a particular encryption program version was deliberately called out as being “insecure” precisely because it was TOTALLY secure and Big Brother didn’t want people using it.

    Regarding personal data about me? Unfortunately that horse has bolted and I just remember the South Park quote by Cartman about Jennifer Lawrence.

    1. trying to hide

      There are many ID risks hiding in plain sight. Go into a dentist’s office, or into some doctor’s offices, in the US and you will see patient files in open cubbyhole-type files. No file drawer with a lock, just an open bin behind the receptionist desk for the vertical folders.

      Within those files are not just health records but enough other information to provide identity theft materials.

      e.g., name, address, SSN, age, payment records

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I’d MUCH rather have that doctor’s office have paper than online records. Their security is sure to be candy store level and it’s much easier to make use of formatted data.

        And I NEVER give doctors my SSN. Why do you assume they have them?

        Admittedly you are at risk of an insider theft. But IMHO that risk is way lower than a hack.

        1. Terry Flynn

          Generally I agree. The “NHS spine” with its touted “online records available to any clinician dealing with you” has failed 95% of the time in my experience. Father of my best friend was a “serious” IT manager in days gone by and was glad to retire before things really hit the fan, having predicted all this.

          My echocardiogram (showing dilated ascending aorta) was done December and they only “found” the results 2 weeks ago. So not only have I had an electro-physiological problem since birth, but I now have a major arterial problem? Solution – “oh we’ll echo you every 2 years”.

          The online records have demonstrably failed in practice. So why on Earth would we accept the risks concerning data sharing/theft?

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            You can refuse to provide it. You are not responsible for other people’s stupidity. I never never fill out that line. The only time I was refused service over that was a radiology practice which had its records set up with the SSN as an identifier. So I didn’t get an MRI there. And that was over 20 years ago.

    2. vao

      Any kind of links or references to those alluring “exasperating methods” and other intriguing “totally secure” techniques?

      1. Terry Flynn

        I’m pretty open but when it’s patient data I get a bit more circumspect.

        However I would invite the reader to delve deep into truecrypt vs veracrypt.

        Alas the nakedcapitalism warning of crapification of google search might come into play but once upon a time there were very curious postings made on this subject. One of my Cambridge contemporaries worked at GCHQ for a time. Another works for Google. I don’t want to break rules and make this seem like a “task” for people but I get antsy when I’ve been holding patient data (as opposed to data about me which might be titillating but is of little value since I’m a nobody).

  2. The Rev Kev

    I suppose that realistically that you have to become a tree in a forest. On your normal computer you do mundane things that do not attract much attention. Call it a facade and maybe even have a Facebook account to blend in and have it for just following people and not posting. I remember reading years ago that for younger people, that not having such an account when applying for a job meant that you were cut from consideration as not having one made you abnormal. Go figure.

    But when you wanted to do something more private, you put a live CD disc into your drive bay, reboot the computer and select the option to run your computer from that CD. Any files that you want to save you do so to a memory stick and when you are finished, you shut down Linux, shut down your computer, remove the CD & the memory stick and then boot up your computer into your normal mode. ‘Mischief managed.’

    1. Terry Flynn

      I definitely agree with your live disc thing. Unfortunately there is a whole cohort of us who had to do stuff that simply could not be done that way, due to constraints on the program being used, or the effective speed of the computer when a live disc was the “intermediary”.

      For instance, to ensure I could actually complete my PhD (completed 2001/2002) on time, the simulations of clinical trials and the estimators I was investigating required me to abandon my “standard” stats package and learn Fortran. From scratch. There was no way I could have achieved time constraints without directly using the CPU etc. I gather – but am happy to be corrected – that certain “intensive” operations done these days create similar problems and that the “neoliberal late stage capitalist slavemaster” require people to work directly with the PC in ways that create the infamous “weak link” in the chain.

      Again, I’m sure these problems are being solved as we speak but it does mean there’s a whole lotta data out there that is ripe for harvesting because we simply couldn’t get the dosh to do what we promised if we “did it by the book” with live CDs etc :(

      1. Hickory

        For the record, you still run on the raw cpu with a live CD. There may still be surveillance issues due to the TPM module, device firmware (ie printers) or the linux distro itself, but it definitely drastically cuts down certain security risks.

        Slowdowns with live cd vs normal installed OS are due to it taking so long to read data from the cd into memory, not lesser access to the cpu. This slowdown can be reduced by booting from a highspeed usb 3.0 key as well as increasing memory.

        Virtualization is another alternative which does however have another layer between you and the cpu, but this has gotten a lot faster than it was 20 years ago. For basic usage I find it perfectly adequate, but the livecd seems like a more reliable guarantor of privacy, so I recommend that.

        Users who are serious should also consider how they can acquire their machine in an anonymous way and then further anonymize usage. For example, all network traffic by default uses the network card’s unique id which can be traced to the manufacturer and from there to the sale, and further sleuthing may be possible from there.

        1. Terry Flynn

          Many thanks! I actually understood all that. It’s nice when someone takes the time to explain at the right level to you rather than the increasingly large proportion of linux devotees on forums who seem to take delight in being smug and unhelpful rather than encourage more people to learn why it works and thereby help more of us escape the clutches of the non open source monopolists.

    2. vao

      you put a live CD disc into your drive bay

      Well, the crushing majority of laptops and many desktops have no longer had an optical media bay for the past 5 years or so. You will have to boot from a USB stick properly formatted with a live OS image.

      1. Terry Flynn

        Indeed. And I personally have found live USBs to be glitchy…. Though maybe that’s a “me issue”.

        Best purchase I ever made was 2010/2011 Sony Vaio Z series top of the line laptop in Sydney. DVD drive still works. Indeed everything has outlasted laptops bought as its potential replacement! Making it dual boot W7 (airgapped) or Linux (networked) has it running like brand new (except the now heavily degraded battery) so power cord required most of the time.

        Bought Sony Bravia big TV and Blu-ray that year too. Still going strong and though “smart”, not smart enough to accept instructions from Sony or anyone else so THEY ARE MY FAMILY BLOGGING GOODS :-)

      2. digi_owl

        You may even be lucky it if will boot from anything that is not signed by Google or Apple or Microsoft.

        1. Terry Flynn

          That’s partly why my 2010 laptop works (MS hadn’t worked out how to fully control us) and first thing I did to my newest laptop was disable all boot priorities and give Linux stuff ultimate authority.

          1. Jokerstein

            I am a serial upgrader, and have several laptops that have been bought in the last few years. None of them has prevented me from booting a live Linux image.

            If you are looking for a new computer, I strongly recommend System 76 offerings.

            Also, if you want up-to-date advice on computer privacy, and specific recommendations, check out Michael Bazzell’s publications.

            1. Terry Flynn

              Thanks so much. I’ve had no “ownership” issues with my Samsung laptop bought 2 years ago and is now dual boot (W11/Linux) but I do sense this may be the last laptop that I can effortlessly boot between partitions etc. I only have W11 for the Dragon Voice recognition software and Zoom which is glitchy on Linux.

              I know there are Linux geeks who have VR software suggestions for Linux but I always found that getting those to work was above my pay grade and I’m getting too old. I used VR for 50% of my PhD 25 years ago (IBM ViaVoice) and I’m too rigid to learn new tricks!

              I quite often get tetchy “you should commit to Linux and stop having multi-boot machine” messages on forums which annoys me, so helpful advice is always welcome.

              1. Jokerstein

                If you want a recommendation for a Linux distro, the System 76 systems come with Pop!OS, which I can highly recommend. It’s also what Bazzell recommends. Linux Mint is also good. For a securish distro, I recommend Tails.

                1. Terry Flynn

                  Thanks. I’ve tried Pop!OS and whilst I didn’t dislike it, Mint blew me away and has been my main Linux OS for a while now.

                  Mint has always “just worked” and minimised my frustration when I have realised I can’t do something in similar way to Windows.

                  You & others in this thread have made it so that I could – if I wanted – become as secure online as it is possible to be. Unfortunately, like practically all of us, I wasn’t savvy enough early enough and the horse has bolted. Lone gone are the days when I could laugh that google thought I was 30 years older than I am plus the wrong gender!

        1. Terry Flynn

          Yeah I have one packed in the stuff shipped from Sydney back to blighty…. I think value of my time trying to find it in unlabelled boxes may exceed 20 bucks getting new one!

  3. Carolinian

    For control freaky reasons some of us like to read things offline and Firefox allows this with an offline button in the ‘menu bar’ (brought up by pressing ALT). Naturally companies like Google hate this, and as far as I know Firefox is the only current browser that has the feature.

    But that’s not to say that true privacy on the internet is possible for those who don’t pursue it with software engineer intent. Not me. A few common sense rules will have to do for at least a little privacy peace of mind.

    The real problem is that we have agencies like the NSA and FBI that were created to spy and monitor–also that Congress mentioned above. Even software engineers can’t save us from them. They have their own.

  4. Lefty Godot

    If I were young enough (like Trump and Biden) to run for President, I would run on the platform of shutting down the internet. Shut it down and send it back to the drawing board to be re-engineered as something secure from its foundations, having data privacy be the default in all cases, and being useful to humans and not useful to bots and AI. We rushed into it too fast back in the 1990s, didn’t qualify who could use it, and guaranteed massive security problems from the get-go by having most clients running Microsoft software.

    Even if you ignore government surveillance, there is no consequence to any entity that has your information on file and allows it to be exfiltrated by bad actors over the net. Companies keep telling me, “Our website is totally secure.” Until they tell me they will pay me $100,000.00 every time my information is leaked to an unauthorized person or organization, I can’t take them seriously. I realize there are class action suits that get filed over data breaches, but that means you get $2.50 and the lawyers get the hundreds of thousands.

    The internet is not a serious tool. A product of the “not a serious nation”, so no surprise.

  5. digi_owl

    Privacy and freedom of expression online is under attack from all angles it seems.

    If it is not government trying to bury its dirty laundry and steer opinion, it is special interests trying to demonetize and de-platform dissenting opinions.

  6. Skip Intro

    I thought ‘Web 3.0’ was the pretentious aspirational name a bunch of cryptocurrency hucksters typed into cloud-shaped bubbles in their VC pitch decks, bluffing legitimacy for crypto by implying it was the future of the internet.

  7. Jams O'Donnell

    It would probably help a lot if everyone included trigger words like ‘bomb’, ‘nuclear’, ‘plot’ etc in every e-mail they send. There must be a limit to what an AI scan can make sense of, so requiring human input, and there is only so much of that. Maybe someone could start an online campaign. I’m too old and techno-challenged.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      i did that for years and years, after the Bush2 efforts came out.
      just include triggerwords at random Nuclear.
      i still reckon that if some unknown critical mass of folks do this anthrax it can gum up the works to sufficiently matter inshallah.liberty.

  8. Tom Pfotzer

    Midst the despair, and it’s despair-worthy, shall we take a moment to enjoy the situation for the farce it actually is?

    A while back a friend and I were conversing, and the subject of encryption and secrecy came up. I said:

    “I really do hope they’re spying on me, because they might learn something useful. After all the tide of stupid comes in, there are going to be consequences – not just for the “good” people, but for everyone.”

    The spymasters and string pullers are quite well aware of this. They know they have big problems, both at the economic and environmental levels, and it’s a race to see which one hurts us sooner and better.

    They are quite well aware of the problems. And given that it’s very clear to almost everyone on the planet that … um, the solutions on the table are pretty close to terrible.

    So for all we know, some key members of the spy apparatus are on a conference call right this minute, and the subject is…

    “anybody got any bright ideas about how we’re going to survive all this?”.

    “Well, and I know this is gonna sound crazy, but since you asked …. the other day I was spying on them wackos over to NC, and one of ’em said …..”

  9. Paul Art

    .”. I am very anti-social and still encounter pressure to engage in activities that expose way too much information.”
    Bummer! I was planning to ask you for an autographed photo I wanted to place on my Piano for posterity :-(

  10. Tom B.

    YS: “I am surprised that Robert Heinlein’s answer (in his book Friday) to the problem of lack of privacy, of using live couriers to carry important communications, hasn’t gotten a following.”

    William Gibson’s “Johnny Mnemonic” (early cyberpunk novel and a later silly but fun movie adaption) went there.

    Johnny Mnemonic: I can carry nearly eighty gigs of data in my head.

  11. John9

    The only redeeming thing about crapification and enshittification is that it also infects the perps and underwear sniffers of big data. The people that are in that world are in it for the money at whatever level and are not driven by purpose or any ideology but neoliberal. They may have a certain type of intelligence but can be deeply lacking in many areas. Deeply flawed. Particularly in implimentation of their control fantasies. And that will only grow worse the more they try to control things. Hubris and nemesis never go away.
    The acres of server farms in Northern VA are a good example. Pure imperial level hubris. So ephemeral.

  12. Librarian

    I think the other commenters know much more than I do. My belief is that you will always have a legacy identity, and for me it is on my old Macbook. I don’t do anything with it, except a few of my old things, and access my bank. Less and less, maybe once a week.

    And I have two used Dells ($200 or $300 range) that have no user log-in, one running Windows 10, which is not registered, and the other running Linux Mint. On Windows I post through different users and each through a different privacy browser, all with a separate and independent privacy email. I do very little email talking, and their only purpose is to start the separate accounts, not to send letters. (I am anti social too, and don’t do facial or voice recognition.)

    Everything I say is collected, because I like Substack, and an email notification is sent out to every user I answer. Their email, usually gmail, is the collector. I am counting on the separation between data and Identity. I don’t think anyone has my legacy identity. They have a lot of data, but from half dozen aliases. Who know if they can put it all together?

    I never considered Signal, because I think you have to give a phone, which I never give. Telegram needs a phone also. What about Session and Lokinet? No phone or name nor recovery email required. (I never was able to convince anyone I know to install Session). I had used it often to pass data between my computers on separate accounts.

  13. Librarian

    I will make one more comment. I think this is a very important topic. But there are only 34 comments here, and most are back and forth just between a few people. That means this subject is not interesting to the mass of your readership. And no comment was added since I wrote the one above 10 hours ago.

    I also mentioned Substack, and if I go to my subscriber list I can see all their email address. 95% of them are gmail, hotmail, yahoo and the like. It is not only that THEIR communications are monitored, but everything they receive is collected also. Therefore they blithely work in their spy job, reporting on all their “friends” for big tech.

    Nothing will ever change about Internet profiling or security while the vast majority of users don’t give a damn about data and identity leaks. They all have their dossier collected, and of course it would astound them, because it never forgets one instant in your on-line life, nor how you are tracked with your telephone, for all the decades that you’ve used them.

    I think these people are into denial? But be sure, I know that you are tracked.

    I have disengaged from most everyone through email. Why would I email a spy? I don’t do anything on the phone, maybe carry it if I will get a flat tire to call emergency. But it will be a slow leak anyway.

    I have determined that a Faraday bag does nothing. At least with mine I can still receive calls inside the bag, both with a sim card and with an on-line WiFi application. I tried wrapping the phone in tin foil. Someone said the foil can’t touch the phone so use something to insulate. I gave up, and don’t carry the phone often.

  14. metrodirtman

    Why are folks responding here who describe their tracker evasion tactics/methods trying to go off grid with their communications? Do they sincerely believe they are successful? The level of expertise of everyone who has replied far exceeds my own, and I still get the impression none of you is truly undetectable by actors with serious intent to find you, so vastly more powerful are the tools of governments and wealthy privateers, who essentially dominate all democracies, never mind dictatorships.
    We are watching in real time how disposable most of us are, when a state (with powerful privateer facilitators) chooses to flout international laws, treaties and covenants to which it is signatory — “Israel” perpetrating genocide using Artificial Intelligence weaponized drones to simultaneously slaughter literally scores, hundreds, or more targets per hour and their entire families in Gaza.
    Given how successful the Zionist agenda has been of infiltrating Christian-dominated Western democracies and turning them into machines of unstoppable money and weapons flows to serve its colonization of Palestine — and getting university presidents to obediently order external urban police forces to crack down on their own corporate clients, the very students they exist to serve — how long will it be before their treatment of Palestinians spreads identical treatment to Western democracies’ citizens who question Israel’s “right to exist” as a scofflaw regime?
    Just sayin’ at this point it doesn’t much matter in usa if you vote democrat or republican, your politicians are just whoring for their own incumbencies on whatever script the Israel lobby feeds them, with a bought SCOTUS to boot. Handmaid’s Tale didn’t touch the half of what’s now on the privateers’ (unregulated wealth accumulators’) front burner.

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