With all the talk about NSA surveillance of everyone’s online activities, and how you can’t trust any corporation on the internet because they’re all complicit in monitoring your activities. there’s a lot of people getting more and more pissed off with the invasion of their privacy, and wondering if it’s at all desirable to find ways of dropping off the grid.
However, to drop off the grid means that you become untraceable by any normal means. You have to stop using anything that requires you to exchange your identifying information for products or services, so that your activities can’t be monitored, and your location can’t be tracked.
Dropping off the grid requires you to drop out of society. You become invisible, a ‘nowhere person’.
He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
– Nowhere Man, The Beatles
Back in the 90’s I thought about dropping off the grid myself, but just never got around to it. There wasn’t any great urgency inspiring me to do something drastic like that.
Today, I just wouldn’t want to drop off the grid. I value the lifestyle I’ve built up over the years, and I value the comfort that I have. I value being able to live the life that I have available to me, and I’m grateful for the comforts that I have as a result of it.
But what about the rest of you?
There’s a rising tide of fear in this world. People are becoming more and more afraid of the government monitoring everything they do online, and media hype isn’t helping stem the fear. Fear sells, so they’re doing what they can to contribute to it by spreading more hype and hysteria about why it’s so bad.
To be honest with you, I think that the only people who have cause to fear are the ones who have reason to be afraid. Only those who have something to hide are those who fear the authorities seeing their dark and dirty secrets.
I know how data works. I know how ‘monitoring’ works. It’s all based on bits of information stored on your computer that records the websites you go to, and the information that you look for or purchase. All of this is stored on ‘cookies’ that help websites track you for login, advertising and marketing purposes.
There’s automatic systems in place in websites and software that is triggered by this data when it’s received, and it’s innocuous enough, being only to help you buy things or receive relevant information, and help them sell things to you and make money from you.
This kind of system can be highly advantageous if you want to buy things relevant to what you’re looking for, or what you’ve purchased in the past. It’s a good thing if you enjoy being part of the system.
But that’s all it does. There’s no one sitting in some room somewhere watching what you do with your online activities. They couldn’t care less what the fuck you do with yourself on the internet. They don’t care about what you buy, or who the fuck you talk to.
It’s just random data sitting in hard drives in data centers in America and around the world, and there’s far too much of it for anyone to care about YOUR activities within it.
The only problem you’ll have with this data is if you’re doing something illegal, and your activities raise a red flag and bring you personally to someone’s attention. For example, you’ve accessed websites with child porn on them, or you send emails with certain trigger keywords that only someone engaging in criminal activities would be talking about, or even worse, that terrorists would be talking about.
It’s only when you don’t want your activities detected because they could get you into trouble that you’d care about your online activities being monitored.
If you’re not doing anything illegal, you have nothing to worry about. (Of course, another problem you might have is in what’s defined as illegal, but that’s a different story.)
I was in an IRC channel this morning, having a conversation with some of the people there, and the conversation focused on dropping out of the system, avoiding the usage of compromised methods of communication, and communicating only with encryption and with self-hosted methods that you could trust wasn’t compromised. There was also extensive talk about blocking and ignoring anyone that tried communicating with them that used compromised communication methods.
I had to leave. The channel wasn’t for me any more. There was far too much paranoia and fear inherent in the conversations and in the premise that they’re working within.
With that much fear, it made me feel they had good reasons to fear being monitored. And so I decided I didn’t want to be there any more, communicating with these people who feared people knowing what they do on the internet.
I have nothing to fear. I don’t care. I have nothing to hide or be worried about.
And there lies freedom.
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