There is no such thing as online privacy.
Over the last few months, my understanding of online privacy has changed. As a result, I made some major changes in how I use my tech.
Let me start with the most important thing I’ve learned.
There is no such thing as online privacy.
The only way to be private is by switching off your device. No software can give you privacy. The moment you share your data with a 3rd party, app, service, or company, it is no longer private.
“But what about all those privacy phones and privacy apps, aren’t they private?”
No, they are not. I spent the last couple of years falling down this rabbit hole and tried dozens of “privacy” products. Let me tell you, at best they don’t work; at worst, they reduce your privacy.
“Wait, why would they reduce my privacy?”
To begin with, adopting privacy tech makes you stand out from the billions of normies who don’t.
But there is more to it.
Many, if not most, of those “privacy” projects are indirectly funded by Blackrock, Vanguard, Berkshire Hathaway, and other trillion-dollar conglomerates. I mean, how else could an ostensibly “grassroots”, open-source project afford dozens of developers, designers, and HR reps? Don’t believe me? Just browse to their funding page and keep clicking on the convoluted web of front companies, foundations, and non-profits until you see names you recognize.
Eye-catching homepage? Check. Politically correct illustrations? Check. Join-the-movement calls to action? Check. Dozens of team members with blue hair, pronouns, and equitable job titles? Check. Well, by this point you can bet those projects are not exactly “grassroots”. You can also bet that they are not very forthcoming about their true agenda; indeed, not even to their own employees.
What is their true agenda, you might ask. And who is “they” for crying out loud?
I’m not going to start listing specific projects because doing so will attract their trolls, and also because there is no need – remember, most of them are compromised, including your favorite privacy OS, your favorite private messenger, and your favorite fill-in-the-blank privacy app.
As for their true agenda, ask yourself, what agenda are their trillion-dollar benefactors working towards? Who do they answer to?
In fact, you don’t have to ask. Just listen to what they say out in the open. Take World Economic Forum, for example; a group of unelected officials who have infiltrated most governments and big business around the world. All it takes is 5 minutes of reading their official websites, books, and presentations. Same goes for the BIS, the UN, the WHO, and all other institutions like them. Best place to hide a secret is in plain sight. And if at this point you still think this is a “conspiracy theory”, I’ll let you go back to watching Oscar slapping memes.
But I digress; back to privacy.
Here is the thing; even if privacy tech was 100% kosher, it is not practical or even feasible.
Lead times for Librem phones stretch to several months, for no fault of their own (incidentally, I believe Purism is one of the good guys in this industry).
Buying a Google Pixel phone, for the purposes of flashing it with a deGoogled OS, requires an online order (or Walmart Store visit if you live in the US). It can get very onerous to source a Google Pixel in some parts of the world – I speak from experience.
What happens if you break or lose your device? Having to replace a specialty item during a supply chain crunch (or other shit-hits-the-fan scenario) is not a situation you want to find yourself in. This applies to all of our tools, not just phones.
But there is more to it.
The world around us is not private.
In South East Asia, every single business is on Facebook. They leapfrogged websites and went straight to Facebook Pages. So if you want to interact with those businesses online, you need a Facebook account. In Latin America, everyone is on Whatsapp. So if you want to stay in touch with locals, you need Whatsapp. Why did that happen? Here is a clue: In many developing countries, Telcos offer free access to Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp, and all mainstream social. Want to stray beyond those gatekeepers? Pay up, motherf****er.
In some Western countries you can’t do banking without a smartphone. In others you can’t enter a restaurant or supermarket without it. Fast forward a few years and you might get arrested if found without a smartphone. If you think this is far-fetched, some governments are already doling out smartphones, and others are using them to enforce lockdowns.
“Okay, so if privacy is impossible, what can we do instead?”
Glad you asked.
Compartmentalize with cheap, disposable devices.
Remember that scene in the Matrix, where agent Smith interrogates Neo? “It seems that you’ve been living . . . two lives.” Well, that’s what compartmentalization is; living more than one digital lives.
Here is how this looks in practice:
All you need is 2 disposable smartphones. Those handsets should be easy to replace: ubiquitous and inexpensive. You should be able to walk into a second-hand mobile shop and buy them with cash without flinching.
Use one handset as your “big brother” device: On this phone you install your banking, Whatsapp, Facebook, Tinder, Uber and so on. Use it to make the most of the normie world. This phone has zero privacy, so only use it for specific chores like paying your bills, navigating, messaging local businesses, and for dystopian things like QR code scanning and digital ID storage (remember: priority #1 should be to escape any country or city that may impose such measures). An iPhone 7 works really well for this role. It’s old enough to not have a U1 chip (which geo-locates your device even when it’s switched off) but it’s fast enough to run mainstream apps with no problem. It’s also very secure, which makes it ideal for banking apps. It is imperative that this handset is switched off (and preferably in a Faraday bag) when not in use.
The other handset is your “personal” device”: You use it to communicate with friends and family, browse your favorite websites, listen to podcasts, and so on. This phone should not know who you are. In fact, it is important to stay anonymous on it. There is no such thing as online privacy, remember? With anonymity as your goal, life is much easier. You can use this device freely because your usage is not attached to your identity. To paraphrase a well-known dictum, privacy through obscurity. Again, if you make a mistake just replace the handset and start over.
You can compartmentalize your laptop too. You can start by creating a separate hard disk partition dedicated to your normie tasks. Say, your employer is on Gmail and Zoom; a separate partition helps you keep this world separate from your personal world. Remember, privacy is a different goal to security. If you are maximizing for security, an entirely separate laptop is probably warranted.
Use a separate email address for interfacing with “big brother”. For example, when you interact with immigration officers and other bureaucrats, the last thing you want is to wake them up from their stupor. They are used to seeing Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo emails. If you give them a Protonmail or cTemplar address, their brain will need to process something out of the ordinary. You don’t want them to start thinking now, do you? You want them to stamp you along, as just another average Joe.
2. Keep your smartphone switched OFF and tucked away.
On average, we use our smartphones a few minutes per hour – anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes, for argument’s sake. During the remaining 55 minutes the phone sits idle.
Sitting idle, a smartphone “calls home” dozens of times per hour. Meanwhile, the GPS module tracks our location, the microphone eavesdrops our intimate moments and discussions, not to mention all those cameras and black-box electronics doing things we are not even aware of.
Need to engage with the world? Do so, with intention. Switch the phone on, do what you need to do and then switch it off. Use it as a tool. Tools are not meant to be ON all the time. If you leave the phone ON all the time, then the the phone is no longer your tool; it becomes the tool of those who farm your attention, capture your privacy, and mine your life force.
If you are a caretaker and need to be available in case someone needs you, just use a dumb-phone. No need for 24x7 smart surveillance just because someone might need you.
Want to improve your relationships? Keep your phones away from the table and well out of sight when interacting with your fellow humans. Want to go further? Use a standalone camera like a GoPro for your photos and videos. Re-learn the art of asking locals for directions (and watch as they reach for Google Maps!).
Bottom line: Switch off your phone and eliminate the reasons for switching it back on.
The stakes couldn’t be higher
Our financial transactions, photos, health, and sensor data are used as inputs for a vast machine learning entity. This has been going on for decades and the results are staggering:
Blackrock has been using Aladdin AI as its financial backbone for years now. That’s how they are siphoning up the world's assets.
Open-AI recently launched DALL-E2, which creates realistic photos based on simple plain-English text descriptions. Do you remember the movie WALL-E? Just sayin’.
For 2 years now, the DNA of billions of humans is collected, analyzed, and machine-learned upon.
AI feeds on our private data. That’s how it learns. That’s how it grows. And if you think the goals of this thing are human-friendly, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
As far as I see it, privacy is our most important resource at this point. Why? Because anything you do in private is beyond the reach and purview of digital tyranny. It is yours and yours only.
Wanna stay human? Then stay private. Switch your phone off. Do it now.
Okay, time for some housekeeping.
Can you think of someone that may find this article interesting? Why not forward it to them? Better yet, why not post it on your social media page? Help me spread the word.
And if you enjoy my work and get value from it, you can buy me a coffee or send me some sats.