Protecting Your Personal Privacy - Both On-line and
Protecting our personal privacy is becoming more important by the day, week,
and month. Despite the warnings so clearly evident in human history we seem
doomed to repeat past mistakes:. There seem to be more and more horror stories
emerging in recent years about on-line and off-line invasions to personal privacy.
As well, science fiction books have warned us repeatedly about the risks and
costs of giving up our privacy, through such famous books as "1984"
by George Orwell and "Brave New World" by Aldus Huxley.
"Why the big deal? I have nothing to hide!"
Yes you do! Privacy is a basic and core human right, like the right
to live. It is a powerful psychological need that is a cornerstone to sanity.
Privacy means that you have the freedom and power to be an individual, and the
responsibility to act like one. Without privacy we live mentally ill lives leading
to terrible behavioral outcomes. Some effects of loss of privacy:
- We feel powerless to change our own lives for the better.
- We live in fear that we will be caught if we try to "hide" our
personal lives (fear being a wonderful tool by which you are controlled).
- We feel that we are part of a nameless, faceless group that will be taken
care of by the government.
- We won't change our behaviors, even when faced with clear reasons why we
should, because we are no longer thinking, acting individuals.
- Our family and clan structures are destroyed by internal experiences, rituals,
and assets being made public, persecuted and even taken away.
"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights
become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty
to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once
the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."
John Philpot Curran: Speech upon the Right of Election, 1790. (From: Bartleby.com
While all this is well known and documented, the activities and status of
our personal lives are increasingly treated like a commercial commodities by
businesses, like open report cards by our governments and as plunderable "booty"
by unscrupulous individuals.
Reality #1: There will be more pressure to invade your privacy
in the coming years by commercial interests and governments.
Reality #2: The pressure of power hungry people who wish to
use power to control your lives will mean that your privacy will not be protected
Reality #3: Anonymity in financial transactions, one of the
cornerstones of how money works, is disappearing. Debit cards and credit cards
open your life to continual tracking. (Cash is anonymous: Use it!)
Reality #4: You are the only person who can protect your own
How to protect your privacy, both on-line and off-line:
1. Never give out full, true and factual information about yourself
to anyone or any organization that doesn't need it.
- Who needs it?
- Your local government agencies that give your driver's licenses, registers
your car, gives you social benefits, etc.
- Your federal government agencies who give you your passport, federal
- Who doesn't need full information?
- Applications for credit cards, bank accounts, etc. That's right: You
can open a bank account or apply for a credit card without giving them
30 pieces of personal information. They will take one piece or two pieces
maximum (i.e. a birth certificate and social insurance number) and still
provide you with services.
- Grocery store bonus point card systems.
- Air miles systems.
- Web sites asking for private information in order to give you an "account"
on their site.
- Contest entry forms.
- People calling you from the telephone company (have an unlisted number,
- The store clerk who asks you for your phone number and address (just
- ...pretty much everyone else can get by without knowing your personal
- "Can I lie? Should I lie?"
- Lying should never be your policy. However, there can be exceptions
to the "never lie" rule. In a situation where your privacy and
long term security is threatened by a nasty person in government or by
another gatekeeper, lying can sometimes be the only way to protect your
privacy and personal safety.
- "What if someone wants to see my driver's license to ensure
that I am who I say I am? "
- This is called authentication. It is a valid process to ensure you are
who you say you are.
- Try other, less personal forms of authentication first (student
photo ID card, membership card, etc.)
- Let them see your driver's license to authenticate you, only if
you absolutely must.
- Do not let them take a photocopy or record details from your license.
- Do not let them copy details into their computer.
- Never have your driver's license number and address put on a cheque.
Never enter it into a web site. Ever!
- Build relationships with people who know you. This way you will
be authenticated without having to provide lots of private documents.
2. Live a low profile life.
- Use cash whenever possible. The beauty of cash is the reason
it has worked so well for thousands of years: Cash is anonymous. Bank cards
and credit cards are full and complete records of everything you do, wherever
you spend money (and when) and whatever you buy. This information is open
to banks, routinely sold to other companies, and is available to government
employees for the asking. Use of non-anonymous forms of money (debit and credit
cards, in conjunction with "points" cards) is one of the biggest
invasions of your privacy.
- Keep your e-mail addresses private and use them only for
family and friends.
- Use fictional name and addresses when signing up for web
site "accounts" that don't really need this information but require
you to enter it as a condition for entry to the site.
- Use an anonymous e-mail address on a public e-mail service
for all business other than family and friends. I.e. "firstname.lastname@example.org".
- Use grocery store point cards only when the store will allow you
to sign up without giving lots of personal information.
- Never sign up for "free contests" or other information
gathering frauds. Nothing is free. Remember that.
- Never give our your real name, information about your family,
or any other seemingly innocuous details about your life to anyone who asks,
unless they are qualified as in #1 above.
3. Keep the public view of your life bland and detail-less.
- Keep your physical life out of public view. Grow bushes
or build a fence around your house to block the direct view of your home.
Keep your curtains closed in your condo if you are not home.
- Don't leave your garage open. Keep any publicly viewed
areas of your lawn free of toys, tools, etc.
- Destroy garbage containing any personal details of your life
- old bills, receipts, personal letters, etc. Burning is best, shredding is
- If you do things differently from your area's social norms
(i.e. you homeschool your kids, are nudists, keep exotic pets, follow an exotic
religion, etc.), keep these facts carefully hidden. People
fear that which they do not understand or that which is different. This important
truth is the reason behind the thousands of years of persecution in human
- Never speak your true feelings on a publicly sensitive
issues unless you are sure of making a difference. Idle conversation of important
issues got more people in trouble than you can imagine... Save your opinions
for when you can really make a difference.
- Put your personal photos, stories, family e-newsletters,
etc behind password protection on your own, purchased web
site space. NEVER use public or free web hosting sites or commercial photo
publishing sites to store your personal photos or information.
- Use the latest firewall software package to protect your
computer system from unwanted intrusion.
- Use spyware detection and removal tools on your computer
on a regular (weekly) basis to remove any spyware that your web surfing has
- Clear your browser's cache and history weekly.
- Use your own laptop at work. Never let the IT department
have the laptop out of your view. Disable or remove any system monitoring
tools they might install. If you must use your employer's computer,
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER do any personal work on it.
- Use an encryption program to store your personal information.
Be sure to encrypt all your backups. Encrypt your e-mail with any person who
you deal with who can handle encrypted e-mail.
- Disguise your e-mail address from software robots whenever
it is listed on a web site. Search the Internet regularly for the most powerful
way to hide your e-mail address.
Sound like too much work?
It is effort. True. But ask those millions of people world wide who have been
persecuted for being too public. Ask the tens or hundreds of thousands of North
Americans who have had their identity stolen and have gone through the nightmare
of regaining their credibility and privacy. Ask those people who have been swindled,
defrauded, or been victims of abuse at the hands of power-hungry individuals
in positions of authority.
Protecting your privacy is not about living
Protecting your privacy is about living
without fear by taking precautions to protect your individuality and
Questions, comments, or things to add to this list? Please
me and help improve this primer on personal privacy.
© 2003-2005 by Paul Kurucz. Any information may be copied from this page
for your personal use, but please reference this page as your source in any
publication, either off-line or on-line. Thanks!