The Matrix is everywhere, it is all around us, even now in this very room. — Morpheus, The Matrix
There’s a renewed interest in personal privacy as the NSA spying scandal saturates the news. The good news is that there are still things that we can do to protect ourselves from unwanted snooping. There is, however a tradeoff that each of us must make between convenience and privacy.
The government is not the only culpable party in the scandal. Private enterprise also deserves scrutiny in how your personal data is gathered and re-distributed. The approach to the Great Privacy Reset I suggest is to first take an inventory of where you feel you are exposed, and rank those in priority order. Here are a few places to start:
- E-mail (the obvious one)
- Social media sites – not just Facebook or Google+, but anywhere you have a username and password and have shared at least one picture.
- Your US mail
- Online accounts – Your bank, Amazon, eBay and the like
- Your brick-and-mortar habits
- Your cell phone
Let’s start off with one that isn’t necessarily in the mainstream: your brick-and-mortar shopping habits. My first tip is to remember that cash is the only conventional form of payment that is anonymous and private. If you don’t want any of your purchases tracked, you’ll have to ditch the credit/debit cards, your checkbook and PayPal. You’ll also have to say goodbye to shopping online as virtual equivalents like BitCoin are still off the beaten path for most of us and have issues of their own.
When you go shopping at the grocery store or other brick-and-mortar storefront, you’ll be on camera. The only way around that is to send someone else to do the shopping for you. Assuming you’re not one of the über-paranoid, your main concern is that you’ll want to stick to cash as just mentioned. Avoid using membership or discount cards that get scanned or otherwise put into a computer, unless you can use them without linking them with your name, address or phone number. Never, ever give out your Social Security Number.
In future posts, I’ll go deep on more of these and provide examples of what the New Normal might look like when it comes to protecting your privacy.