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… grant me the serenity …

A few days ago, a friend sent me this article: “You don’t want your privacy: Disney and the meat-space data race.”

It’s by “data scientist” John Foreman (I put that in quotes only because I’m not sure what all “data science” might encompass), who says a) that the most egregious electronic privacy violations will be in our off-line lives and b) We’re going to cooperate happily and fully. Not going to cooperate. But are cooperating. Privacy — right now! — is as “over” as bustles and moustache wax.

Although Foreman recognizes the creepiness of omni-tracking, he embraces it with cheer — heading off to Disney World with his family, every member sporting an RFID bracelet that will know everywhere they’ve been, everything they’ve bought, every food item they’ve ordered — and even how long they’ll spend on one of Mickey’s toilets if something they ate gives them diarrhea.

My friend said he just couldn’t wait for the great blog I’d make of this. And he asked me to send his regards to Katherine Albrecht. A few years ago when Katherine and her associate Liz McIntyre wrote their book Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID, my friend scoffed at their predictions.

Now? Not so much scoffing going on.


I’m going to have to disappoint my friend, though. He was probably expecting a rant so passionate it would set BHM’s pixels on fire or maybe a tutorial on RFID hacking or RFID safety.


When I read Foreman’s words, my only reaction was to feel tired.

That doesn’t make for barnburning blogitude. But it’s probably a good thing for life.

The simple fact is that we do live in a world where millions of people will happily trade their privacy for a cool phone app or a high-tech trip to Disney’s plastic wonderland. Nothing to be done.

Someday, maybe (beyond our ability to predict or prevent), those millions may wake up with a terrible shock. But that will be up to them and the corporations and governments they’re selling themselves to so cheaply. Right now, we can wave our arms and shout all we like, but as long as somebody is dangling bright toys in front of them, those millions will pay no attention to us.

What bothers me much more are the many freedomistas who say they care about privacy, but who don’t take steps to protect themselves. Even there, though, I understand. Privacy protection becomes more complex all the time, and we can never even know if the steps we take are effective (or, if effective now, might be useless in six months).

We non-technoid privacy lovers just take what steps we can — while hoping serious techies will one day soon dangle bright privacy toys before us. Meanwhile, we’re watchful and we resist the lure of Mickey Mouse.


So we come back to a place we visit here so very often: The place where we accept reality but are not of that reality. The place where we resist evil but don’t necessarily fight evil.

Nock still has the best description of this state.

I don’t believe that privacy is a lost cause. Privacy is always going to be necessary to human life. Never mind that only a minority of us know that.

Privacy will be different in the future in ways that we can’t see from here. Technology won’t be undone — except by some disaster that, itself, would be worse than anything Mickey and Walt could ever perpetrate.

What I believe — what I guess — is that privacy itself will become a pirate activity. Essentially (it’s already happening, of course), private people will slip in and out of society’s cracks. Around us, millions will be happy little narcissists, content to be tracked everywhere they go. At the same time the trackless will move among them, undetected. Unaccepted, too. But then, that’s always been an Outlaw’s lot.

Some of the trackless will monkeywrench the tracking systems. Some just won’t participate (in either the tracking or, increasingly, in large parts of society).

Amid the vast, scary new of a surveillance society … really nothing new at all. Ghosts. Pirates. Monkeywrenchers. Rebels. Saboteurs. Moles.

We’ve always walked among the many without being part of them. We always will.

Grant us the serenity — and the self-assurance — to know that what we do matters, even when the whole damn blind world and its all-seeing master-wannabes are against us.


  1. Kevin3%
    Kevin3% February 1, 2014 11:58 am

    I still use mustache wax and I still have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

  2. jed
    jed February 1, 2014 12:51 pm

    Dangit, Kevin beat to the mustache wax. Well, I still have a tube of it — even know where it is. It’s there, for when I really need to put on that look.

    I predict that the day will come when you can be arrested for wearing a veil across the front of your camouflage boonie hat. (Or, more generically, for appearing in public while employing means to defeat facial recognition and other tracking techniques.)

  3. jed
    jed February 1, 2014 12:55 pm

    I hit the button to soon. I’m reminded of this from Jeff Cooper:

    I have been criticized by referring to our federal masked men as “ninja,” when in the view of the critic the traditional role of the ninja in Japan was to fight against oppression and tyranny. Let us note that almost no one ever resorts to force and violence unless he is convinced that his cause is right, but without going into that let us reflect upon the fact that a man who covers his face shows reason to be ashamed of what he is doing. A man
    who takes it upon himself to shed blood while concealing his identity is a revolting perversion of the warrior ethic.

    It has long been my conviction that a masked man with a gun is a target. I see no reason to change that view.

    So I wonder what the Colonel would think of a society where the mask becomes a necessity, whether virtual or physical, to shield oneself from the omnipresent prying eyes of the state, and the corporations.

  4. Kevin3%
    Kevin3% February 1, 2014 4:40 pm

    The good colonel saw “the rot” (his phrase) within our nation and was not pleased. I am quite sure he would not support the current crop of goons parading as police. He was very much angered by the events at Waco and elsewhere.

  5. F42
    F42 February 1, 2014 5:58 pm

    I’m still stamping FRN’s with my RebelFire stamp. :0

  6. RickB
    RickB February 1, 2014 6:55 pm

    “If you aren’t doing anything wrong you’ve got nothing to hide.”
    That doesn’t make any logical sense given the motto of the U.S. government:
    “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, we’ll make what you are doing illegal.”

  7. jed
    jed February 1, 2014 7:07 pm

    > I’m still stamping FRN’s with my RebelFire stamp. :0


    Yeah, if I have nothing to hide, then why are you spying on me?

  8. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal February 1, 2014 9:28 pm

    What bothers me about jumping through hoops to try to protect electronic privacy is how many of those protections are later revealed to have been “compromised” before I ever even heard of them- much less would have gotten the chance to learn to use them.

    I really believe if it comes to that, I’d rather just give up all electronics. But that wouldn’t stop the spying, would it? There will be ever-increasing numbers of cameras- both mounted and mobile- and who-knows-what else. Even satellites.

    I would like some privacy, but if I’m going to live “in society”, I want some of the conveniences/entertainments of it. If I have to avoid them, why am I not living in a cave? It’s a question I ask myself nearly every day.

  9. Bear
    Bear February 2, 2014 4:17 am

    @jed: “I predict that the day will come when you can be arrested for wearing a veil across the front of your camouflage boonie hat. (Or, more generically, for appearing in public while employing means to defeat facial recognition and other tracking techniques.)”

    Too late. By many, many years.

  10. Pat
    Pat February 2, 2014 5:49 am

    There are some simple actions to take which don’t entail extraordinary measures. For example, I use a small thin tin box for ID and other cards or photos so no one can “pick my pocket”, so to speak. It’s easy enough to keep in my purse. I always use cash, not even checks, for everything local/regional. And the suggestion someone gave to place duct tape over the webcam on a computer is easy enough to do if you think you’re being spied on through your computer.

    OTOH, I don’t worry about satellites or roving Google (unless it showed up in my vicinity ― but probably already has).

    I’ve noticed that winter has made spying a joke around here when everyone is bundled up to keep warm. Hats and heavy coats, clumsy boots, snow goggles, and scurrying about with heads down against rain, snow or cold wind are not helpful to spycams ― but that doesn’t help those who live in warm climates. Yet you can always wear sunglasses in any season.

  11. Jim B.
    Jim B. February 2, 2014 7:59 am

    There are already places, like Banks, that require you not to hide your head/face.

  12. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 2, 2014 10:08 am

    As with so many other things, the tyrants have taken good things and twisted them into abominations. How is reputation supposed to work if people can’t identify you? Without gov. snooping and control, I don’t know too many people who would care if they could easily be identified.

    And it’s difficult not to be known when you live in a small town like this. I went into the bank here the other day, all wrapped up in a coat, scarf, hat and gloves. The first person I met at the door said “Hello, Mrs. C!” She either recognized my hat… or maybe it was the big black gun sticking out under the coat. 🙂 The only way I can hide is to stay home.

  13. Claire
    Claire February 2, 2014 3:00 pm

    F42 wrote:

    “I’m still stamping FRN’s with my RebelFire stamp. :0”

    🙂 That’s pretty amazing. And wonderful in its way. I still have my stamp, but it’s been a long time …

    Sigh. Maybe someday RebelFire will rise again.

  14. Ellendra
    Ellendra February 2, 2014 6:56 pm

    Every time someone brings up the “If you have nothing to hide” argument, I ask if they have doors on their bathrooms and curtains at the windows. After all, if they have nothing to hide . . . ?

    So far, they’ve all tried to laugh that off, but no one’s actually come up with an answer.

    Seems the only people allowed to hide their faces anymore are females of a certain religion.

  15. Hanza
    Hanza February 3, 2014 1:47 am

    Regarding the Jim B. comment about banks not allowing you to hide your head/face.

    Some years ago I read an article about a bank that put up signs that said to take off hats and sun glasses when entering.

    They were hit with charges of “racism” for doing it.

  16. YIH
    YIH February 3, 2014 10:39 am

    ”when in the view of the critic the traditional role of the ninja in Japan was to fight against oppression and tyranny.”. Not even close:
    ”A ninja (忍者?) or shinobi (忍び?) was a covert agent or mercenary in feudal Japan. The functions of the ninja included espionage, sabotage, infiltration, and assassination, and open combat in certain situations.”

    When the cartoon ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ got brought (back) to Japan (though produced there, it was done for the US market) the title was translated as ‘Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles’ and the ninja stuff was toned down/removed as much as possible. As you can see from the Wikipedia entry, in general the Japanese did not see ninja as ‘good guys’ in any way.

  17. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau February 3, 2014 6:05 pm

    [Privacy is always going to be necessary to human life.]

    Well, this is too pat a statement for me. Maybe you could say “*some* privacy is necessary for mental health.”

    Humans have never had complete privacy – except for hermits (still true). Humans have almost never (except in some jails) had no privacy. It will continue on like this.

    Getting more privacy takes money and work, particularly for those well connected with their fellows. People put in fences in the old days; these days they upgrade their firewalls.

    I don’t worry too much about privacy even though I do put in significant money and work and put up with inconvenience to get it. I’m Alfred E, Newman: “What, me worry?”

    Again, it is one thing to collect information, another thing entirely to do something with it. If someone uses info he’s collected on you to blackmail you, shoot the bastard. That’s the way to make privacy less important.

    Oh, BTW if someone commands you to get a chip in your arm, shoot him too. There *are* limits…

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