A Fast Company perguntou a vários especialistas o que seria preciso e não é assim tão fácil. Em última instância seria preciso receber um salário em dinheiro e até deixar de ter amigos. Alguém está disposto a isso?
THINK YOU CAN LIVE OFFLINE WITHOUT BEING TRACKED? HERE’S WHAT IT TAKES
WE ASKED THE MOST PRIVACY-AWARE PEOPLE WE COULD FIND WHAT IT WOULD TAKE TO GO OFF THE RADAR. HINT: YOU’RE GOING TO NEED TO DO MORE THAN THROW AWAY YOUR LAPTOP.
Nico Sell, the cofounder of a secure communication app called Wickr, has appeared on television twice. Both times, she wore sunglasses to prevent viewers from getting a full picture of what she looks like.
Sell, also an organizer of the hacker conference Def Con, places herself in the top 1% of the “super paranoid.” She doesn’t have a Facebook account. She keeps the device that pays her tolls in a transmission-proof envelope when it’s not in use. And she assumes that every phone call she makes and every email she sends will be searchable by the general public at some point in the future.
Many of her friends once considered her habits to be of the tin-foil-hat-wearing variety. But with this summer’s revelations of the NSA’s broad surveillance program, they’re starting to look a little more logical. “For the last couple of months,” Sell says, “My friends that are not in the security industry come up to me, and I hear this all the time, ‘You were right.’ ”
But even as more people become aware they are being tracked throughout their daily lives, few understand to what extent. In a recent Pew Internet study, 37% of respondents said they thought it was possible to be completely anonymous online. From experts like Sell, you’ll get a different range of answers about whether it’s possible to live without any data trail: “100% no,” she says.
The people who have actually attempted to live without being tracked–most often due to a safety threat–will tell you that security cameras are just about everywhere, RFID tags seem to be in everything, and almost any movement results in becoming part of a database. “It’s basically impossible for you and I to decide, as of tomorrow, I’m going to remain off the radar and to survive for a month or 12 months,” says Gunter Ollmann, the CTO of security firm IOActive, who in his former work with law enforcement had several coworkers who dedicated themselves to remaining anonymous for the safety of their families. “The amount of prep work you have to do in order to stay off the radar involves years of investment leading up to that.”
Fast Company interviewed the most tracking-conscious people we could find about their strategies for staying anonymous to different degrees. Here are just a handful of daily, offline tasks that get more complicated if you’re avoiding surveillance.
1. Getting Places
A few years ago, a man who goes by the Internet handle “Puking Monkey” noticed devices reading his toll pass in places where there weren’t any tolls. He assumed that they were being used to track drivers’ movements. “People would say, ‘Well you don’t know that, because it doesn’t tell you when it tracks you,’” he tells Fast Company. “I said, ‘Okay, I’ll go prove it.’ ”
He rigged his pass to make a mooing cow noise every time a device read his toll payment tag. And sure enough, it went off in front of Macy’s, near Time Square, and in several other places where there was no tollbooth in sight.
It turns out the city tracks toll passes in order to obtain real-time traffic information, a benign enough intention. But what worries people like Puking Monkey about being tracked is rarely a database’s intended purpose. It’s that someone with access to the database will misuse it, like when NSA employees have spied on love interests, A U.K. immigration officer once put his wife on a list of terrorist suspects in order to prevent her from flying into the country. Or that it will be used for a purpose other than one it was built for, like when social security numbers were issued for retirement savings and then expanded to become universal identifiers. Or, most likely, that it will be stolen, like the many times a hacker group called Anonymous gains access to someone’s personal data and posts it online for public viewing. By one security company’s count, in 2012 there were 2,644 reported data breeches involving 267 million records.
In order to stop his toll pass from being tracked, Puking Monkey keeps it sealed in the foil bag it came in when he’s not driving through a toll. That only stops that data trail (minus toll points). Automatic license plate readers, often mounted to a police car or street sign, are also logging data about where cars appear. They typically take photos of every license plate that passes them and often these photos remain stored in a database for years. Sometimes they are linked with other databases to help solve crimes.
Puking Monkey avoids license-plate readers by keeping his old, non-reflective license plate, which is more difficult to read than newer, reflective models. Others who share his concerns salt their license plates, add bumper guards or otherwise obscure the writing–say by driving with the hatch down or driving with a trailer hatch attached—in order to avoid being tracked.
But that still doesn’t account for the tracking devices attached to the car itself. To identify tires, which can come in handy if they’re recalled, tire manufacturers insert an RFID tag with a unique code that can be read from about 20 feet away by an RFID reader. “I have no way to know if it’s actually being tracked, but there are unique numbers in those tires that could be used that way,” Puking Monkey says.
He uses a camera flash to zap his tires with enough energy to destroy the chips.”
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