You’re going to be watched

One way or another, your government is going to try to track you. Your social security number, your email address, your Facebook profile, Twitter account, tax records, driving record, things you do online under other names: It’s being recorded all the time, and while it may never all be joined up, new connections tie things together to give a picture of what constitutes a version of you that your government is interested in.

It’s not that CISPA is a bad law, though it is. It’s that there’s no such thing as a good version of it, but it’s still going to happen.

So, by all means, fight CISPA. Sign the petition. Write the president a letter. Do whatever point-and-click thing you need to do, and then come back. Feel better? All right, then, let’s get down to brass tacks. If you want to do something online without being tracked, you’ve started several decades to late to expect the internet to do that for you. Governments look for ways to track citizen behavior: It’s how they govern, deliver and limit services,  tax, prosecute, draft soldiers, etc. Companies want to track consumer behavior: It’s how they figure out new ways to sell you more crap. There’s no incentive for either to not track you, and a growing mutual interest in combining efforts. You can sign petitions, but companies can donate vast sums of money to get people elected. Who’s going to win that round?

Combating internet surveillance isn’t a philosophical battle, it’s a technical and behavioral one.

If you don’t want to be tracked online:

Method A: Turn off your machine and go sit in a forest.

Method B: Try out running the spybots by doing the following…

  • Use tools that limit or block tracking capabilities.
  • Do not incorporate information that can be linked to your public identity.
  • Avoid using the same web pages that you use when operating as your public identity.
  • Don’t simply stop using your public identity online. That’s your cover. Don Diego de la Vega didn’t give up being a posh Spanish colonialist when he learned how to carve a ‘Z’ with a fencing blade.

So, loads of work and lots of things to remember: URLS you can’t leave on your machine, different passwords that should be substantially complex and kept in your head, technology that runs quite slow in order to hide your IP and inspect packets for tracking code, settings to block cookies and not keep browser history, and generally not using most things that make the web quicker easier and more enjoyable, and actually useful and useable… But there you are, all snug and untraceable. Now that you have this sorted anonymity thing sorted out, there’s a bigger question to answer for yourself: What were you going to do with it?

UPDATED: In a new post on his own blog yesterday (25 March) Bruce Schneier essentially says the same thing, though with much better insight, knowledge and reasonable cynicism: “Maintaining privacy on the Internet is nearly impossible. If you forget even once to enable your protections, or click on the wrong link, or type the wrong thing, and you’ve permanently attached your name to whatever anonymous service you’re using. Monsegur slipped up once, and the FBI got him. If the director of the CIA can’t maintain his privacy on the Internet, we’ve got no hope.”