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How not to be seen…

Let’s talk about convenience….

I have said before that convenience, safety, and efficiency are three excuses given for the erosion of our liberties. A CNN article today discusses the way that we trade privacy for convenience. Doug Klunder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is quoted about how each of us is tracked as we move around. He mentions video cameras that recognize license plates (faces?) and cell phone triangulation that creates a record of where we are to within 100 feet.

Of course, the GPS in our cell phones is even BETTER than that. And smartphones and computers tell folks about many of our preferences, from the restaurants we frequent to the books we read….

The article discusses identity theft (11 million targets in the U.S. last year, according to an annual survey by Javelin Strategy and Research) and how the number 1 targets are people aged 18 to 24. These young folks definitely share more of themselves through electronic communications, but I disagree that they are more digitally “savvy” than older folks.

These young folks are at once digitally sophisticated and digitally naive. They have had neither the education nor experience (life and professional) to understand the trade-offs that they make when they log on to a computer or carry a cell phone. Of course, many older folks do not understand the trade-offs, either!

A private investigator mentioned by the article gives a talk at conferences that is entitled, “Privacy is Dead: Get Over It.” The title sounds AMAZINGLY :-) like a quote from one of my former CEOs, Scott McNealy, at one of my former companies, the former Sun Microsystems (independent company), who said, “You HAVE no privacy; get over it!”

One of my FAVORITE Monty Python comedy sketches was entitled, “How not to be seen” (video). It included such bits of wisdom as, “Don’t stand up,” the first rule of not being seen. The CNN article discusses the attempts by an editor of WIRED Magazine who tried to “disappear” and dared his readers to find him. There is a video with his disguises, which as we have learned, may fool human beings but not facial recognition technology.

There is also the story of Frank Ahearn, who used to be a “skip tracer” who tracked down people who had tried to skip town and disappear. For a fee, Ahearn now helps people who are not wanted by law enforcement but may have personal or financial reason for wanting to disappear, learn how not to be seen….

-Bill at

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