There's a select few of my friends who are really serious about their privacy. They all use strong passwords for everything, many don't bother with online banking or use bill pay services, most don't use eBay or Amazon, and most don't have social media accounts or, if they do, they are very careful about what they post and very cautious about who they friend. They never use their home address online, they're cautious about giving out their phone number, and so on.
In other words, despite being tech-savvy and computer literate, they are consciously trying to stay out of the world that many of them are creating.
And this kind of rather extreme self-protection is understandable: They, better than most, know how easily privacy is lost and how, once lost, it can't be regained. That said, in the 21st Century, is trying to stay off the radar really possible?
The answer is no, unless — and this is a big hurdle to clear — you are willing to give up the thousands of conveniences and opportunities that the digital world seduces us with. If you wanted to be not so much off the grid as off the matrix but still be in the U.S., you'd have to be willing to live in a cabin way out in the woods somewhere, have no utilities, spend only cash, grow most of your own food, never, ever, ever get sick and, if you were really serious, break the law by not filing your taxes and being generally unaccountable as a citizen.
If that appeals to you then the best of luck to you because it would be, in modern America, very, very difficult to pull it off, and, the way things are going, within a few years it will become truly impossible.
Why? Because as the recent NSA intelligence gathering revelations demonstrated, if there's some data out there that might have any bearing whatsoever on national security, homeland security, law enforcement, or taxation, then there's some raving bureaucrat somewhere who wants to pigeonhole said data just in case. Once those little nuggets of data have been collected, collated and corralled you are in the matrix, er, system forever.
What these friends of mine are doing is perversely contrarian to the direction our global culture is taking. A majority of people worldwide no longer really seem to care about privacy (of course, "no longer" rather assumes they really understood or cared about privacy in the first place). How do I know that we collectively no longer care?
In May this year business consulting firm Infosys conducted a survey of 5,000 digitally savvy consumers (1,000 each in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Australia) aged 18 to 69 to establish their criteria for sharing their personal data and what they thought about ways their data might be used.
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