I seriously doubt that I’m paranoid. Of course no one will believe me now that I seem compelled to write about the so called art of privacy. How to encrypt your files, masquerade your way around the Internets -all that stuff. However I think there’s a difference between paranoia and obsession with privacy enhancing techniques.
I actually visited the website of Merriam-Webster via my secure connection and read up on the definition of paranoia. It says it’s a, “tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspicions and being distrustful of others.”
Did you see that? It said excessive or irrational. So that means if I’m not excessively suspicious or distrustful, or irrationally so, then I’m fine. I’m a normal, well-adjusted person (whatever that means). No paranoia to worry about.
Excessive is tough because we can argue about what constitutes excess. For me just one TV is excessive so you won’t find one in my house. Maybe someday, but not now. For you maybe 5 is too many so you only have three. Irrational is something we can agree on though, right?! One definition of irrational is: “not governed by or according to reason.” In other words: unreasonable.
Alright, so that means if I’m really worried about something without reason then I am irrational. Ah, got it. Which brings me back to what I was saying about my doubts concerning my supposed paranoia.
Let me tell you a little story:
A few years ago I greatly reduced my credit and debit card use**. I’m somewhat allergic to debt so I had always paid my card balance off on a monthly basis. It wasn’t that I was trying to get out of debt or spend less money, I was just trying to spend less traceable money.
This was around the time of Eliot Spitzer’s downfall -although perhaps it an “upfall” or whatever the positive opposite is since it removed him from power- and I’d heard an interview where the guest explained how banks track cash flows with software and then turn their customers over to the government when they see something “suspicious.”
I can’t recall all the details now so I’ll have to go read up on it when I have a free day but it was enough to make me want to assert my independence and protect my privacy by using cash as much as possible.
Keep in mind this had nothing to do with high-priced female companionship. It was about my scheme to keep the banks and the government from knowing I spent $67.85 on 89 octane fuel at the BP station on Main St. last Thursday. And…some other things…
You have to agree that my privacy concerns weren’t irrational because there was a reason behind them. The reason = banks are known to analyze your habits for neutral actions deemed criminal by the state. So I made cash my privacy screen. I’m weird that way. It just feels so good to think that “they” don’t know what I’m doing with my money. It flows trickles into my account then it slips out the back door and that’s the end of that. I love it.
This did get a little inconvenient though. To fill up your fuel tank you have to go in, give some bills to the cashier. Pump your gas. Go back in for change, etc.
Imagine the thrill I got from discovering Speedway’s prepaid fuel cards. They are truly wonderful little things! You can put up to $999 dollars on the card. You can add to the balance at any time and when you use it at the pump you get a discount. Three cents off 87 octane, five off mid-grade and seven cents off premium fuel. Besides the security cameras it’s completely anonymous.
Why I’m not being irrational:
Was all this obsessing over untraceable money excessive? From a individual level assessment it probably was since I don’t have enemies in high places (that I know of). I’d argue it wasn’t irrational though given that we know:
- Systems are in place to detect “suspicious” transactions.
- You can be accused of “structuring” based on multiple deposits in the “wrong” amounts.
- Banks will report you for what should be non-crimes. In fact they are required to do so.
In a similar way web users can be targeted for what Orwell called “thoughtcrime.” Your web activity can identify you as a thought criminal.
Have you ever:
- Visited websites or searched for information on environmental activist groups?
- Tweeted unapproved content during a RNC\DNC convention or G20 summit?
- Attended a vegan potluck in Minnesota?
- Looked up information on WikiLeaks?
- Researched a project related to explosives?
- Showed support for unconventional political figures?
- Researched a trip to Pakistan for any reason?
There are any number of interests or curiosities which can get you entangled in ridiculous but very serious trouble without any criminal intent on your part. For that reason I think it’s completely rational and rarely excessive to look for ways to protect your privacy. You may have seen them before but I’ll mention a few of my favorites again.
- A VPN service (I use Witopia’s personalVPN – PPTP)
- TrueCrypt encryption software
- TorBrowser anonymous browsing bundle
Oh, excuse me…I need to cut this short now! Black helicopters on the horizon…
**I’ve since relaxed a bit on this to take advantage of a few benefits that seemed desirable.