The Fantasy of Opting Out

A great article on MIT detailing how opting-out of privacy-infringing technology is near impossible. The article makes the case for adopting a strategy of Obfuscation to delude the data collectors in their profile-building processes of us.

MIT: The Fantasy of Opting Out

Surveillance everywhere

From the article:

Consider a day in the life of a fairly ordinary person in a large city in a stable, democratically governed country. She is not in prison or institutionalized, nor is she a dissident or an enemy of the state, yet she lives in a condition of permanent and total surveillance unprecedented in its precision and intimacy.

As soon as she leaves her apartment, she is on camera: while in the hallway and the elevator of her building, when using the ATM outside her bank, while passing shops and waiting at crosswalks, while in the subway station and on the train — and all that before lunch. A montage of nearly every move of her life in the city outside her apartment could be assembled, and each step accounted for. But that montage would hardly be necessary: Her mobile phone, in the course of its ordinary operation of seeking base stations and antennas to keep her connected as she walks, provides a constant log of her position and movements. Her apps are keeping tabs, too.

Any time she spends in “dead zones” without phone reception can also be accounted for: Her subway pass logs her entry into the subway, and her radio-frequency identification badge produces a record of her entry into the building in which she works. (If she drives a car, her electronic toll-collection pass serves a similar purpose, as does automatic license-plate imaging.) If her apartment is part of a smart-grid program, spikes in her electricity usage can reveal exactly when she is up and around, turning on lights and ventilation fans and using the microwave oven and the coffee maker.

We are moving to a society of full-spectrum surveillance, where every second of our lives are monitored in real-time by digital and automated systems, which are operated by governments and many unknown parties to control and influence us. This will ultimately lead to Data Dictatorships as described in @borja’s new book.

I highly recommend reading the Hacker News discussion on this article. It contains many interesting viewpoints:

Note: The article also links to the book Obfuscation : a user’s guide for privacy and protest


This is really interesting. I highly recommend reading the HN discussion too. Thanks Arnold.