As story after story breaks about the United States government seemingly spying on its own citizens without warrants or even suspicions it’s easy to feel a bit insecure. Those pictures you posted on your Facebook of your cousin’s wedding were meant to be between you and your 200 Facebook friends, and each of their 200 Facebook friends, and also your followers on Tumblr, but that’s IT. Johnny Law has no business snooping around your album titled “Slam drunk: Spring Break 2012”, there’s a reason you blocked your parents from seeing it.
I’m with you. But in this political climate, I can’t imagine the government giving up their new spy toys. They are just too much fun and so, so easy to do. Also, they probably cost more than the entire NASA space program so giving them up would be wasteful. Looks like we, as private citizens capable of feeling a prick of shame when it comes to our online activities, have to take matters into our own hands.
A lot of websites are providing people with a great deal of suggestions on how to “go off the grid”, but you can’t make it more than a few paragraphs in before your head starts spinning with technical jargon like “Virtual Private Network”, “IP address”, or “Is the little green light next to the power button on?”. As far as I’m concerned, if grandma can’t figure it out, it’s not worth doing. So instead, I humbly suggest a few practical, common sense, suggestions to keep the Feds off your trail. Prepare to disappear.
1. Padlock your home computer
A ton of internet experts (referred to as “hackers” or “cyber-ninjas”) parade out a myriad of ways you can prevent people from “hacking” or “cyber-ninjaing” your computer through various security programs and firewalls. Well, to them I say, if a padlock was good enough for grandma’s “special bedroom box” then it’s good enough for computers. I’m not sure where the best location to place the lock on the computer tower is (every tower is different), but I’d suggest somewhere near the front. It serves to not only prevent a break in but also acts as a strong deterrent from even TRYING to break in.
2. Camouflage your cell phone
The NSA has said before that when it comes to cell phones, if they can’t see it, they can’t spy on it. Keeping it in your pocket or fannypack is fine for most times, but when you have to use it, guess what? It’s out, it’s exposed, its compromised. Prevent this by painting the entire phone in military grade camouflage (Nordic climes, don’t forget to modify yours for “winter colors”). I’ve seen a few people do this and forget to paint the screen, to which I sneer: What? You don’t mind if the NSA see’s your screen? Usually, that searing rhetorical question is enough to make them see that they have been acting like fools.
3. Use code words
When you have to talk on the phone, and you think the information may be compromising, use “code words” generously. For example, here is a recent phone conversation I had:
Me: Hey man, do you know what’s up? Got any tickets?
Him: Yeah, I’ve got several pounds of the best tickets you’ve ever smoked.
Me: Hm. How much would an 8th of a ticket cost?
Him: 100 bones.
Me: That sounds like a good price for an 8th of a ticket, but what if I want to buy a bit of snow too?
Him: That costs a bit more.
Me: Okay, I’ll just take the 8th of a ticket do you think that will be enough to roll a fatty.
Him: More than enough.
You see? To a G-man, it seems like I’m just buying a ticket to the movies and asking about the weather, but to an experienced windtalker, it was actually an exchange for drugs. I bet the government boys listening in were pulling their hair out trying to figure out what we were talking about and to that I say, good, let them squirm a little!
4. No Selfies
If you’ve ever seen CSI you know that facial recognition software has advanced at quite a clip since the early days. Putting a selfie on facebook is basically an invitation for spies to run it through their criminal database and find that you have unpaid parking tickets and are wanted for murder in Wisconsin. Also they make you look stupid.
5. Limit googling yourself to once per hour
I know it’s tough, but this is a post 9/11 world and we all have to make sacrifices. If you must google yourself (like me), you should limit this to the bare minimum of once per hour or 24 times per day. This aligns with the average amount the average American googles his or herself per day so it avoids suspicion. There are two exceptions: If you are a celebrity or 16 years old, it would look MORE suspicious if you DIDN’T google yourself at every waking minute of your life. Plan accordingly.
6. Write a handwritten letter to Mark Zuckerberg asking him to stop selling your information
Politely but firmly ask Mark Zuckerberg, inventor of Facebook, to stop stealing your private information and selling it to Match.com and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He is legally obligated to reply (may take up to 6 to 8 weeks) and remove you from his list of people he’s using like livestock to further line his pockets. He probably gets several hundreds of these per day so a hint to help you stand out is to write yours in blood.
7. Talk quietly, never above a whisper
This should be obvious, but the louder you talk on your phone the better the spooks on the other end can hear you. If you whisper they can barely hear you. They might not even be able to make out your exact words depending on your accent or the severity of your lisp. Text messages are even better because they will only hear silence on the other end. As far as I know there is absolutely no way they could hear your text messages so they are the most private way of communicating ever and what you write in one will absolutely never come back to haunt you.
8. Speak to a dead person through a medium, who then tells the dead person to tell a medium at another location what your message is to an awaiting friend or loved one.
This one is pretty self explanatory. It’s not rocket science.