Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Out to Get You

Back in the day you could call a person paranoid when they claimed that the government was spying on everybody. Today, thanks to Edward Snowden, such paranoid has proven to be justified:

And while the NSA story alone undoubtedly gives the “paranoid” plenty of reasons to say “I told you so,” a slew of other reports from this year gave them even more reasons to retreat into the wilderness and start subsistence farming.


For instance, the ACLU released a cache of documents showing that police around the country are collecting license plate scanner information that could be used to track physical locations of many Americans without consistent retention policies.


Speaking of being tracked, an enterprising hacker discovered that the E-Z Pass he used to make paying tolls simpler was being read all around New York City. Turns out, the city had been tracking E-Z Passes for years as a way to measure traffic patterns.


Speaking of technology with obviously exploitable surveillance capabilities:  Someone might be watching you through your laptop’s webcam – without even activating the warning light.


Oh, and to top it all off: There was suspicious aerial activity going on at Area 51. Although no admissions of alien activity have emerged, much to John Podesta’s dismay, recently released documents reveal that the CIA tested its first drones at the Nevada military base.

2013, above most other years, has demonstrated how widespread surveillance has become. The Orwellian present we find ourselves in has been made possible through advancing technology. This has lead many people to blame technology and seek a Luddite existence that they believe will keep them safe from surveillance. While technology has made widespread surveillance possible it is also the tool that allows us to fight widespread surveillance.

Cryptography allows us to conceal our communications from prying eyes and even to conceal the source and destination of communications. Tor allows you to access the Internet anonymously (so long as you use it correctly). Tails is a Linux distribution that can be booted from a CD or USB drive that attempts to anonymity all of your online activity. GnuPG allows you to encrypt the contents of your e-mail so those bastards at the National Security Agency (NSA) can’t see what you and your correspondent are discussing. Off-the-Record Messaging does the same thing for instant messages. Many other tools exist that allow you to maintain anonymity and privacy.

The only way to stop the widespread surveillance apparatus of the state and corporations is to use technology to counter their technology. Hiding in a hole may sound effective but the surveillance state can watch you even if you don’t carry a cellular phone, use a computer, or drive a car. Cameras are everywhere in our society and you can’t avoid their soulless stare unless you board yourself up in your home and refuse to come out (and even then your home could be bugged). But we can make the cost of surveillance so high that it bankrupts the spies.