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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Protect Your Privacy When It's Out of Your Control? 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the always-watching dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A week ago, Slashdot was asked, "How do you protect your privacy?" The question named many different ways privacy is difficult to secure these days, but almost all of the answers focused on encrypting internet traffic. But what can you do about your image being captured by friends and strangers' cameras (not to mention drones, police cameras, security cameras, etc.)? How about when your personal data is stored by banks and healthcare companies and their IT department sucks? Heck; off-the-shelf tech can see you through your walls. Airport security sniffs your skin. There are countless other ways info on you can be collected that has nothing to do with your internet hygiene. Forget the NSA; how do you protect your privacy from all these others? Can you?"
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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Protect Your Privacy When It's Out of Your Control?

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  • by Kohath (38547) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @11:38AM (#45568247)

    ...you can't. That's what "out of your control" means.

    • You certainly can't 'control' it. It might be possible to guide it to a small degree. Especially with the ubiquitous use of 'surveillance' cameras which are, at present, fairly low technology, low resolution devices that can be spoofed by various means.

      Maybe a new line of cosmetics that had a lot of reflectivity in the infrared (where most of these cameras have a lot of sensitivity). Change your facial structure oh so slightly, make your hair look different. Perhaps some integrated IR / UV LEDs in your

      • Oh, one more thing.

        If you can't make money fighting the system, you certainly could make some by maintaining all of these electronic / computer gizmos.

        Again, you folks just have to start looking at the bright side of things.

        After all, nothing from nothing....

      • by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @12:00PM (#45568389)

        You can go to insane lengths, but it will make you insane.

        Diligence, tenacity, questioning authority, using pseudonyms, alternate identities (within legal contraints), and being sensible can be rewarding.

        I'm betting your browser doesn't have NoScript or Ghostery.... and your phone is an Apple (some say less tracking, others don't) or an Android (just email your every waking moment to Google and friends) and you can mod both phones to be less tracking.

        Take a deep breath, acknowledge that they track you, then do what you can to stop it. Question the need for SocSec, phone #s, addresses, at each and every turn. Don't use barcode store cards-- or use someone else's. Pay cash for top-up charge cards, and use them once.

        Steal This Book and other tomes (which you'll steal or pay cash for) are great guides to anonymity. Think about them. Don't go crazy.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          being sensible can be rewarding

          That is the best advice.

          The best thing you can do when it's out of your control is just get in the way. Make it harder for them to take your privacy.

          First, you have to value that privacy.

        • Well, I am certainly not running around in a hoodie... Nor I am much interested in makeup. Active jamming is more my style but for now, I mostly live in a place that is so backwater that I doubt even Google understands much about it (too look at their maps of the place anyway).

          And I do have both NoScript and Ghostery up in Firefox. Internet banking is done in a Linux VM off Parallels (mostly for security rather than privacy). I am not terribly worried about this - there are many more pressing issues in

          • Best to stay under the radar. And remember to vote for those whose interests aren't otherwise lined by the DMA, Google, and others whose business models is anti-privacy.

      • by plover (150551)

        You mean like CV dazzle makeup? [engadget.com]

        It might be popular in Ibiza clubs, but I don't see it walking down Main Street, Anytown, USA.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Although one can always wear a tinfoil hat.
      • by steelfood (895457)

        What good is protecting your brain only? You need to wear it everywhere. They make Faraday suits that look like hazmat suits. The bonus of wearing that everywhere is that you're completely anonymous since no one can tell who you are underneath (the only downside being that you're now the guy wearing the Faraday suit everywhere).

        Also line your walls with tin foil. Or at least turn your exterior walls into a Faraday cage and put up steel grates over your windows. You won't be able to steal your neighbor's wif

        • by number11 (129686)

          What good is protecting your brain only? You need to wear it everywhere. They make Faraday suits that look like hazmat suits. The bonus of wearing that everywhere is that you're completely anonymous since no one can tell who you are underneath (the only downside being that you're now the guy wearing the Faraday suit everywhere).

          Also line your walls with tin foil. Or at least turn your exterior walls into a Faraday cage and put up steel grates over your windows. You won't be able to steal your neighbor's wifi signal, but at least your neighbors won't be able to throw a brick through your window and steal your stuff either.

          Stucco is basically concrete troweled onto steel mesh. If you pay some attention to making sure each piece of steel mesh is electrically connected to the adjoining pieces, and grounded, and used aluminum screen over the windows (or maybe used metallic film coatings on the windows), steel doors, and either installed conductive screen over the attic floor or used steel roofing (the good stuff isn't cheap, but will pretty much last forever, never need to re-roof again), you'd probably have a pretty good Farada

        • Also line your walls with tin foil. Or at least turn your exterior walls into a Faraday cage and put up steel grates over your windows. You won't be able to steal your neighbor's wifi signal

          That's what roof-mounted antennas are for!

      • by ewieling (90662)
        Make sure to use cash to pay for your tinfoil. Dollar for dollar (pun intended) using cash is one of the most effective ways to increase your privacy. You cannot have total privacy and live in the modern world, but you can drastically reduce your electronic footprint.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Change your name to John or Jane Smith. If someone tries to search for your info, they will be literally flooded with false positives. Sometimes I wish I had a common name like that.

      • by symbolset (646467) *
        This is the correct answer. Also, although trite, naming your children after cultural icons that share your family name if possible can help. Your little Dexter Morgan will never be in the top search results as progressive copyright extensions drag the series' exploitation to the end of time, minus a day. No help against government snoops but keeps the idle stalkers at bay. Of course little Dexter may need it explained, lest he find it suggestive...
      • by qbast (1265706)
        Until any of John Smiths does anything that puts him on a no-fly or 'domestic extremist' list.
    • by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @12:21PM (#45568503)

      Wow, I'd mod you even higher except the very second I hit this forum /. expired my damned mod points! Oh the humanity.

      I'd expand on your answer. The truth is that the cat is out of the bag. We can't get this sort of privacy back. We probably can't ever get back the CERTAINTY of any sort of privacy. If there's advantage to be had, someone will listen. You will never be SURE that the NSA (which isn't going away) isn't or can't listen to you, get all your facebook data, etc. Even if it isn't them it could be SOMEONE. You can't ever truly know what software any modern computer is running for certain. You absolutely can't be sure that your SSL connections are secure, or that if you use Tor that someone is STILL not tracking you.

      The truth is, we're better if we go with the flow and take control of the situation. Live more in the open. That's what we ARE going to do, but if we do it RIGHT then we put at least SOME controls on things. We need to insure that whatever the government knows, we know. If there isn't some absolute direct reason why given data should be hidden, then it should be open. All data about what people do should belong to the public. It should make the rules. I think we'll all find at that point we want to exercise restraint and life will be able to go on. The alternative is we fight for a losing cause, total privacy, and end up with all our data owned by corporations and stuck in Top Secret NSA vaults, and all these people just listening to everything without the slightest oversight.

      • The first thing people should to do is understand the difference between privacy versus anonymity. The former can be somewhat achieved depending on ones actions but not 100% and the latter is impossible to achieve unless you live in a cave and do not use any modern electronic devices while also staying away from anywhere that might be under video surveillance such as stores, ATM's, and even roads. The government has had the ability to track or identify someone long before the Internet came on the scene. SS

      • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @02:31PM (#45569395) Homepage

        The truth is, we're better if we go with the flow and take control of the situation. Live more in the open. (...) All data about what people do should belong to the public.

        You're part of the "we" that like to dictate for everyone else. No, all data about what I do should belong to me. My life is my own and in general it's nobody else's business, I accept that in certain ways aspects of my life is in less than perfect secrecy because it happens in public or around other people or with private or public institutions but my bank account is a private matter between the bank and me. My pay check is a private matter between my employer and me. Where my cell phone is located is a private matter between the cell phone company and me. Life is full of small compartmentalized exchanges of information which together make up the bulk of what we consider privacy. Having sex isn't "private" because those you have sex with can tell other people about it, but I think most would consider an organized collection of that information was an invasion of privacy.

        I'm not interested in living my life "fully in the open" as long as there as busybodies, bigots, rumormongers, besserwissers, peer pressure and so on. It's human nature to meddle in things that are none of their business, even if the NSA was wiped off the face of the earth I'd still want my privacy. Apparently you totally disagree since you want to go in that direction anyway, good for you. Put up webcams and broadcast your life to the world if you want, just don't drag me into it. Don't pretend it's something I want to, should have to or need to. And if you want to share video from a private establishment using Google Glass and is asked to leave, please make a scene so I can cheer when they throw you out. The NSA, well we might not win that fight but everyone with total access is a worse nightmare than just the NSA.

        • As it becomes easier and easier for more and more people to potentially spy on pretty much anyone we will have a society where you can't EVER be sure you are not being watched or listened to. That's just a fact. Nobody will stop that. Lets say however we make it a serious offense to keep your data secret, then we can create values in society that will mostly make people not get too nosy lest they suffer the same fate. Any other set of values just isn't going to work any way you cut it, so we might as well e

          • I think you have the right idea. Privacy needs strong laws, just like we have laws against murder and assault. In some very clear sense, the information about me is part of me. So when someone compromises my privacy it's like they maimed me, that's assault. And if they steal my secrets and impersonate my identity, that's as serious as if they killed me. In some cases they could actually kill me bureaucratically.

            It's obvious that strong laws don't stop EVERYONE from murdering people, or from assaulting peo

        • by tomkost (944194)
          This is spot on, and the way that this can happen is we need first need the government to re-recognize the right to privacy. Then we can define what controls we want to have on privacy. EG, I own my info, no one else can share if without my express permission. I can demand those who I have given my info delete it when the transaction or relationship is over. There must be harsh financial penalties for breaking these laws. $10k/non compliance incident and $100K + actual damages for theft or fraud using
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        You can fight back. Create fake profiles with somewhat similar information, maybe even a blurry photo, but also lots of disinformation. There is a art to doing it which allows potential employers/dates/spies to see immediately that it isn't your profile, but at the same time makes it almost impossible for them to see what does apply to you.

        It is a lot of work too. You have to network those fake profiles, make them friends with some of your real friends even. Look out for newly popular SNS and create profile

        • That doesn't strike you as largely futile and not the way of the future basically? Realistically very few people will do that kind of thing, and even fewer will do it for very long. Look at the end-game, the new status quo. It isn't going to be everyone spending an hour a day making the NSA's life hell. Even if you do all this stuff how effective is it really? You will never know for sure. Not as long as we drive the data collection into the dark alleyways of the digital world.

      • The truth is, we're better if we go with the flow and take control of the situation. Live more in the open. That's what we ARE going to do, but if we do it RIGHT then we put at least SOME controls on things. We need to insure that whatever the government knows, we know.

        Quite correct - stick a fork in privacy and turn it over, 'cause it's done. But to ensure that "whatever the government knows, we know", means that the NSA, TSA, and all those other TLA's need to pretty much drop their drawers as well. Snowden, Manning, and others of good conscience have been working on that - their lives are hell right now, and they are pariahs to millions of people, the majority of whom stand to have their lot made better and safer by the whistle blowers they condemn. Making sure that Joh

    • by StripedCow (776465) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @12:45PM (#45568661)

      ...you can't. That's what "out of your control" means.

      Well actually, you can. The trick is to inject noise into the system, such that Google/Facebook's statistical classifiers and the such stop working.
      For example, take pictures of yourself, and tag them using a stranger's name.
      Or, take random pictures not featuring yourself, and tag them using your own name.
      Perform fake google searches every day (search for stuff that you have no interest in whatsoever).

      And so forth.

      In fact, I see a business model here.

      • by nospam007 (722110) * on Sunday December 01, 2013 @01:00PM (#45568789)

        "Perform fake google searches every day (search for stuff that you have no interest in whatsoever)."

        There's even an extension for that..
        http://cs.nyu.edu/trackmenot/ [nyu.edu]

        • by Dogtanian (588974)
          I'm pretty sure I said this before at some point, but that plugin isn't half as clever as it likes to think it is, and gives a dangerously false sense of security. How hard do you think it will be for someone to note the behaviour of the plugin, spot *any* patterns or discrepancies in the pseudo-randomised "false queries" that make them relatively easy to filter out, or at least flag as dubious?

          If that's possible- and it quite probably is, unless the writers were *very* good at what they did- your past hi
          • Hrm ... wouldn't it still be Better Than Nothing (tm), though?
            • It's kind of like security-by-obscurity. It's not the same as real security.

              • "security-by-obscurity." is the default security for internet traffic. The sheer amount of traffic alone makes the data hard to analyze unless you know before hand who you are trying to locate. The most advanced keyword algorithms can return millions of hits per day which require additional human attention. Maybe it's why the government stopped trying to collect the bulk internet traffic a few years ago because it required a huge amount of resources but produced no real benefits. Any chance Snowden will rel

            • by Dogtanian (588974)

              Hrm ... wouldn't it still be Better Than Nothing (tm), though?

              No, not- as I said- if it gives people a false sense of security.

      • Exactly. I've said this before elsewhere, but this is the reverse of the spammer coin. All the tricks that spammers use to fill our public information sources with unwanted noise can be "used for good" if the purpose is to poison databases. And there's good money in it, too. Think about how much an advertiser is willing to pay a spammer for their services, and realize that individuals who have a personal stake in getting their records poisoned are going to pay even more. And of course it's not just individu
    • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @12:47PM (#45568681)
      Right. The solution is legislative. I know that's never the answer. But what would happen if a law was passed declaring "Personally identifying information is under the exclusive copyright of the person identified by it. It may be transferred once, but no more, without explicit written consent (and written means on paper). Any personally identifiable information that is shared must be tagged with the source and all destinations. Upon a takedown request, the person issuing the takedown shall be provided with all sources and destinations of the information requested. Keeping information after a lawful takedown is received is a felony."

      Some laws like that, and our privacy will return.

      But such laws would be great for the people and bad for the billionaire business owners who exploit personal information. So it'll never happen until Americans stop voting for Democrats or Republicans.
      • by Smallpond (221300) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @01:04PM (#45568819) Homepage Journal

        Here ya go [wikipedia.org] It's been on the books since 1974. The Federal government is prohibited from collecting personally identifiable on you without notifying you, etc. How's that working out?

        • by ewieling (90662)
          Violation of the Privacy Act of 1974 is a misdemeanor and fined a maximum of $5,000. This is less harsh than the penalty in many states for selling an ounce of weed.
        • by AK Marc (707885)
          That only applies to federal agencies. So when a credit agency collects personally identifying information, I have no recourse. And making something a crime by the government is silly. If you can't trust the government, then how can you trust them to find against themselves in court? I want it done by people to be a crime.
  • Fight back! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 01, 2013 @11:39AM (#45568249)

    - Shame people who are doing such activities.
    - Convince others that what they are doing is a bad idea.
    - When all else fails, get violent.

  • I'm not entirely sure that any of those things are about privacy, as any right to privacy does not extend to the right to be completely unknown.

    • Indeed. It reminds me of the reported fear of photographs shown by various primitive peoples, fearing that it was taking away their souls.

      Fundamentally it's a fear of change. The new seems scary to some. People born to it will just see it as the way things ought to be. Till they in turn get scared by some new technology that arrives in their lifetime.

      • by khallow (566160)
        There were some things that stayed scary even when they don't change for centuries. Nobody gets accustomed to the Spanish Inquisition.
      • Fundamentally it's a fear of change.

        Not all change is for the better, and some things are worth fearing. Ironically, the best lessons about the future dangers of this kind of technology can be found in history.

        • by HiThere (15173)

          Yeah. But they don't make the school history books. Everyone thinks the Luddites were being silly, when they were protecting their homes and families as well as they could against an intrusive national government that favored the wealthy and aristocratic. (It didn't work, but I really doubt they had anything available that would work...even in hindsight. The only possible exception is assassination, and that would likely have brought an unselectively violent response from the national government. So it

    • Re:Not privacy (Score:5, Informative)

      by elwinc (663074) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @12:27PM (#45568541)
      Sounds like we need to talk about what privacy really is. A good definition of privacy is "control of your personal information" (probably from This paper. [louisville.edu]) Of course, keeping personal information entirely secret is the best means of control, but in the modern world, complete secrecy is getting more and more impractical. So what else could we do?

      One option I've heard is a property right, such as ownership (similar to copyright) of personal information. Joe "owns" his name &* address, and he'll loan a copy to Time Magazine for the purpose of delivering the periodical he has paid for. Any other use of Joe's information by Time Magazine is a violation, unless Joe & Time have come to some other agreement. This is very similar to copyright, so let's just call it personal copyright.

      Copyright might be too blunt an instrument though, because remedies mostly involve (expensive) civil suits. A number of European governments passed legislation called Fair Information Practices. [cdt.org] These laws basically say that personal information can only be used for the purpose for which it was given, and cannot be repurposed without consent of the person involved. Probably the governments involved have given themselves a loophole for national security, but I haven't investigated the details. This option reduces the cost to the individual, and makes it the job of the government to enforce the law. I see this as a benefit, though some may not.

      Writing Fair Information Practices into law would probably explode the business models of the currently most successful tech companies in the USA, so maybe there's a way to ease into the laws and allow the tech companies time to adjust their business methods...

      • by Smallpond (221300)

        The problem is that the phone companies believe that those call records are made on their systems and belong to them. The credit card companies own the transaction records between you and some merchants. Just because your name is in it, they don't believe that it is your information or that you have any control over it. Copyright does not apply to facts and its tough to draw a line anywhere over what should be private.

      • Of course, keeping personal information entirely secret is the best means of control, but in the modern world, complete secrecy is getting more and more impractical.

        It's not just impractical; for most people, it's undesirable. You can't interact in many useful ways with people or organisations you'd like to collaborate with unless you inherently give up some degree of personal information. That "loss" of privacy isn't in itself a problem for most people, because it's done willingly and typically for mutual benefit.

        The problems usually start when others get hold of the information, or when information that was willingly shared for one useful purpose then gets reused for

        • IMHO, what we need is to establish standards of respect for this kind of personal data, where it's not socially acceptable to share potentially sensitive information about someone without their knowledge and consent.

          Once upon a time, parents did teach their children this kind of respect. Over time, fewer parents did so. Mine (and my GF's) parents were probably amoung the last. Sadly, my GF and I are not able to give our daughter anywhere near the amount of privacy as our parents did. Not because we don't want to give her that level of privacy, but because the social climate demands that parents watch their children a lot more closely than prior generations of parents. We watch her get on the school bus in the morning (

          • For what little it's worth, I agree with almost everything you said there. I don't think we're quite as stuck with "micromanaging" our kids here in the UK yet -- there are still enough of the older generations around to point out when parents are being overly protective and provide a degree of social/political acceptability -- but unfortunately the "fear everything" culture our governments and courts and schools seem determined to push on everyone is relentless.

            Personally, I intend to ignore them anyway and

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        You really believe you should have control over public facts about you? That you have the right to never be documented in public in any form? The ability to enforce your whims over your friends?

        There are certain things you should control, and in the UK most of those are covered by the Data Protection Act. But I wouldn't ever consider that I have the right to never, ever be known, to disappear entirely while still in public or to control what my friends can and cannot say about me.

        If you are in public, the

      • This is very similar to copyright, so let's just call it personal copyright.

        This will not work for the simple reason that in the EULA, you are waiving all your rights away.
        Big companies win again.

        • by HiThere (15173)

          That only works to the extent that the laws allow the right to be waived. Or, of course, as propaganda. EULAs already frequently claim things that they have no legal right to claim.

    • Well, I disagree. There was a time where you could just decide "Fuck it, I don't like people" and walk into the woods. Short of moving to Alaska or Northern Canada, that's pretty much not possible anymore. We lost that right about 100+ years ago. I think that, if there was still an option to do such a thing, we'd likely have fewer of these horrific mass murders. Those that chose to reject society could do so completely and fully without resorting to such violent extremes.

      • Lots of room up here. Plenty of space. And if you wait it out long enough the climate will warm up enough to where you might even be able to grow some food.

        An Historical Document [imdb.com] for you to peruse if you are interested.

  • one quick method.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by waddgodd (34934) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @11:47AM (#45568297) Homepage Journal

    First, you stop asking sefl-defeating questions. The question is not "how do you protect privacy when its out of your control", it's "how do I control things in order to increase my privacy" You ask how to maintain your privacy when your friends all have cameras, why do you have friends that pull out a camera at the drop of a hat again? You ask about protecting personal data that's collected by banks and companies that have horrible IT, why are you doing business with them again? Your privacy is literally your own business, and if you don't mind it, someone else will.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How do you know the banks and companies you do business with don't have horrible IT? Are you James Bond?

      • by waddgodd (34934)

        In business, they have a standard "due diligence", before any transaction is completed, both parties are given enough time to determine if the transacion is all it seems. On the internet, there's a site called letmegooglethatforyou.com. Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.

        • by HiThere (15173)

          I think that you think that you answered his question "How do you know they don't have a terrible IT department?". I don't believe that you did. What you did was say "Well, it's easy to see if there's any readily available public knowledge on the topic." And to that extent you are correct. But that's not answering the question. Some companies, when they've been penetrated, do everything possible to keep it quiet. Some, in addition, try to fix the problem, but not be any means all, and it is my belief

  • By giving things up (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The premise of the question implies "How can I keep doing everything I'm doing right now but 100% maintain my privacy?". That's a dumb question. Look at the assumptions--how do you maintain your privacy when all your friends take pictures of you all the time and share them online? Gee whiz, how about asking your friends not to take pictures of you? Or consider whether being a socialite and a party animal is compatible with your aim of privacy? How about when personal data are stored by banks? Maybe you shou

    • by femtobyte (710429)

      Funny how the situation has nearly been reversed: going to the bustling Big City was once viewed as a way to achieve anonymity, privacy, and freedom not available in slower-moving small-town life (where your neighbors, employer, and vendors knew everything you were doing). Where do you go today for the mythical idyllic private contemplative life, if you're an ordinary middle-class person without millions of dollars stashed away to live privately with no job or nosy neighbors?

      Creeping technological surveilla

  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Sunday December 01, 2013 @11:49AM (#45568323)

    How Do You Protect Your Privacy When It's Out of Your Control?

    You give it up with a smile and don't, or you hire lawyers.

  • by astralagos (740055) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @11:50AM (#45568325)
    About 20 years ago, I worked for a private detective firm. At the time, I could call up a consultant who given a couple of pieces of information (name and address), would produce for me a complete dossier on a person - their social security number, credit history, vehicular records, neighbors, etc. This was, at the time, a few hundred bucks and a few days of work. Companies such as spokeo now offer to tell you all that information for about 15 bucks.

    I don't believe that technological privacy is achievable, and I'm skeptical that it's valuable. Whether cryptography actually works (an interesting mathematical question in itself), cryptosystems fail fairly often. Even when they do work, to truly be untraceable or private with them you have to effectively opt out of commerce. Don't logon to anything when you're using Tor, kids; also, don't use Google, since they can always watch your referer tags and see 3/4 of your pages that way. The problem with privacy as we normally talk about it is that it is extremely fragile -- what we've historically taken as 'privacy' was really laziness -- going back to my example from the detective firm above, all this information was already there, it was just split into a couple of dozen different archives and databases. Beforehand, it took time and effort, so you had privacy because unless something was really important, it wasn't worth the effort of searching. Now, it's very easy to record and archive, and we've been focused for many years on making recording and archiving easier, and we elect to be recorded and archived in order to participate with other people -- bank won't serve you if you're wearing a ski mask, visit vegas and you'll see that any table game has very specific gestures and rules to make what you're doing camera-friendly, want a loan you need to have a credit rating.

    So, privacy has to be implemented, which means its going to be a combination of legal, technical and social elements. Technical in the same sense as breaking and entering -- the definition of B&E is that the breaker has to make -an- effort, regardless of how trivial. Lifting a latch is considered B&E, and similarly you need some indication that you're trying to achieve privacy. Legal in the sense of limiting the consequence when your privacy is breached.

    • by swillden (191260)

      It's also worth considering that privacy is a relatively new concept in human history. Until the last few hundred years, at most, the vast majority of humanity lived in small villages or tribes where basically everyone knew everything about everyone else, at least within their village. Secrets could be kept, but only with difficulty and usually not for a long time.

      I think it's worth considering that perhaps privacy is neither necessary nor desirable, and the real problem that we're struggling with isn't p

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @02:12PM (#45569293)

        Until the last few hundred years, at most, the vast majority of humanity lived in small villages or tribes where basically everyone knew everything about everyone else, at least within their village. Secrets could be kept, but only with difficulty and usually not for a long time.

        And there was very little creative output. Cities enabled the privacy that comes with being just another face in the crowd. Some people like to complain that in the city no knows their neighbors. But that very lack of societal pressure enables people to be more adventurous. It lets people take risks because if they do something stupid it won't haunt them for the rest of their life.

        When the pressure to conform is lifted people naturally see the world in new ways because they don't have to worry whether their neighbors agree or not. Take away the freedom that comes with privacy and progress - both artistic and scientific - will come to a near standstill.

        • by swillden (191260)
          Interesting point, although you can also pin the lack of creative output on the inability to exchange ideas outside of a small sphere. I can't refute your claim, but I see other possibilities as well.
          • you can also pin the lack of creative output on the inability to exchange ideas outside of a small sphere.

            Even then you don't have the freedom to hang out with the weirdos if your neighbors are going to ostracize you for it. Cities definitely bring more than just anonymity, all the pieces are necessary to sustain a culture of developing new ideas.

            • by swillden (191260)
              Perhaps. You make some interesting assertions, but I'm not convinced.
            • by darronb (217897)

              > Even then you don't have the freedom to hang out with the weirdos if your neighbors are going to ostracize you for it.

              It usually takes us a year after moving to develop more than one or two neighborhood friendships. It's not like the tribe is going to deny you food or won't help you build your hut or something. Neighbors are less important than ever.

              The new 'neighbors' are parents of your kids classmates, people at work, etc. There's also gym friends, hobby friends, virtual communities of all kinds...

          • by zsau (266209)

            Surely for most of history one of the biggest limitations to "creative output" was the fact that people needed to eat. Particularly in villages (i.e. poorer areas) you didn't necessarily have the resources for great artistic displays—unless, at least, they were popular enough everyone could benefit.

            And a significant one would also have been that we just don't highly regard a lot of creative output, because it was done within a theme we would regard as too constrained to be interesting (e.g. English pa

            • by swillden (191260)
              That's another good point. I don't think you can attribute a difference in creative output to one cause. And among all of the possible causes, I think the opportunity to hide what you're doing from your neighbors has to rank near the bottom.
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      It would be easy, if the databases used by such services were outlawed.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      also, don't use Google, since they can always watch your referer tags and see 3/4 of your pages that way.

      It's trivial to spoof or remove referrer tags, but you'll discover it breaks some websites in interesting ways.

  • The only thing to do is to use misdirection and misleading information to those that collects data if you can't bounce them with stuff like AdBlock or do not call registry.

    Always buy zip-ties and vaseline at the same time. If someone asks - then buy some candy too and tell them that they don't want to know.

    Zip-ties are great when doing some work on your car, vaseline protects electrical connectors and candy is there to keep the blood sugar up for those times when you have been working on the car for too lon

  • There are truly out-of-control entities, such as criminal gangs, but most snoops have to obey laws, and if they are businesses generally chose to do as a cost-avoidance strategy (;-))

    This large group of commercial snoops are currently trying to capture as many unhappy people as they can, and within a few years are in line for a harsh slapping about from enraged politicians: see the UK for a picture of what happens when newspapers crack people's cell phones. Now imagine what response you get when they star

  • by gallondr00nk (868673) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @12:23PM (#45568515)

    Most of the submitter's issues stem from inadequecies in the law. Drones, CCTV etc. can't really be fought with technological measures. Outlawing invasive behaviours (or having strict rules over their use) seems the only option.

    Yes, our technology enables easy mass surveillance. Does that mean we simply accept it? Do we accept a future where those with the most technology and money simply do whatever the fuck they want? That seems to be the conclusion of a lot of people.

    It's a long shot, especially when government seems so authoritarian and adversarial to the populace, but I'd suggest it to be the only solution.

  • If well it may be pretty hard or near impossible to get 100% privacy, trying to get as close as possible (or at least, at the point you draw the line) worth it. And that is a process, not a static destination.
  • by fred911 (83970) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @12:39PM (#45568621)

    And for the TSA, lead condoms with scrotum wings.

  • keep a low profile (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @12:48PM (#45568697) Journal

    There's something to be said for blending into the background, being "down in the noise", not being whomever they're looking for. Pay cash when possible. (It's still allowed, although maybe not for too much longer.) Be less distinctive in appearance. Build up a really boring persona. Don't make it worth anyone's time to follow you.

    Practice safe computing. I think this is probably more important than CCTVs everywhere. Don't open or click on anything unless you know exactly what it is. If you must do porn or warez, do it on a virtual machine, not the same one on which you do your banking and pay your utilities.

    Beware of social engineering. It works so well that I would be really surprised if it were not used as a surveillance tactic.

    But in general, just be uninteresting.

  • I think the problem for many people is that the privacy horse left the barn a long time ago; you'd need a time machine to send yourself a note in the past telling yourself to implement procedures and countermeasure back then so that you'd be protected today. Much like the Internet doesn't forget, neither does the databases of governments and corporations; once they've got information on someone, they're not going to delete it, ever. The goal would have been to prevent any information about yourself being co
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well you could start by lobbying with some laws to limit db's about persons.. start by catching up to the eu laws on it.

      which is really the answer to the question: by political action.

      • by kheldan (1460303)

        which is really the answer to the question: by political action.

        Actually as I see it the real problem is convincing enough people that the whole thing matters enough for them to get involved politically over it.

  • I know it's difficult when there are so many people who don't give one tenth of one fuck about anyone but themselves, but build a better society, one in which we aren't all looking up each other's arseholes with flashlights unless we're doing a rectal examination. Do anything you can to make the world a better place, and that will have the long-term effects of reducing surveillance.

    You also have to convince at least two other people to do the same, if you really want this to take off... And them, as well, and so on. Eventually, that requirement can be eliminated.

    Now, if we can just agree on what we should do...

    • Now, if we can just agree on what we should do...

      Prohibition of advertisement could be a good start.

  • It's not about denying personal information to others, it's about how they use or misuse it once they have it - and making sure they only get the stuff you want them to have.

    You can start by decreasing the amount of data you give away, for free. A second step would be to start reading the EULAs, Ts & Cs, and other annoyances that come between you and ACCEPT and make wiser decisions about which ones you choose. You can falsify some stuff with impunity (does that website really need you phone number or

  • I doubt very much that most people had much in the way of "privacy" through most of history. Your average Joe in a tribe or village ... well, his neighbors knew what he was doing, and who with, approximately all of the time.

    I happen to like the brief window of modern higher privacy that we had, don't get me wrong ... just saying that it was something of an aberration.

  • Is it worthwhile to use baseballs caps and dark glasses to foil face recognition technology?
  • Wear a mask. Not a Halloween prop or anything, but a medical mask, as you would wear when you are running a cold or something. No, it won't really prevent automated face identification, but it will prevent any casual recognition or incidental appearances in other people's online albums.

    As a bonus, if you do happen to carry a cold or the flu at the time, you're also helping prevent the spread.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Newer systems just go for a gait signature (specific walk).
      The online albums aspect is going to be a huge supply of data :)
  • What's out of control is the controllers. Can't balance a checkbook, can't stay out of trouble, can't hang around normal people, always looking for a fight with the wrong people. It's all fun and games till someone loses an eye.
  • Stay away from the tame US companies - change to 'white' box hardware. Read up on the people who where correct over many years and rethink the academics and trusted coders pushing US brands.
    Open source OS, not on a big US brand file system would help with any malware been sent down to your computer.
    Beyond that its back to open time pads and a computer version of number stations.
  • The NSA scrubs every phone call made anywhere, yours, mine, everyones. Privacy is a luxury of the past.

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