Monday, October 8, 2007

24 Tips to Increase Your Privacy

Privacy used to be a carefully guarded commodity. Years ago you would ask an old-timer a question that would infringe on their privacy and all you would get was an icy stare. These days privacy is a vague theory at best--people just assume that their almost every move is being surveilled and they also assume that they can't do anything about it. For ultimate privacy you would want to move to a different state, leave no forwarding address, ditch your phones (cell and land lines), and ditch any ties to your family, friends, work, hobbies, etc. However, if you don't want to be that extreme, here are a couple dozen tips to increase your privacy a bit:

  • Take your name off of your mailbox and remove your name from the exterior of your home (this includes signs in the yard or on the front gate with your family name on it, signs on the front door with "the ___ residence" on it, etc). Leave only your house numbers visible so your home can be found in an emergency.
  • Re-key all of the locks in your home and office.
  • Get new (unpublished) home and cell phone numbers. Be sure to leave the generic greeting on these phone's answering systems instead of your personal message. Better yet, use a pre-paid disposable cell phone that is not attached to your name at all.
  • Have all of your mail sent to a PO Box or better yet, a ghost address.
  • Don't attach your name and address to anything (don't order food for delivery, don't sign up for contests/grocery store discount cards, etc.). Try to avoid filling out forms of any kind.
  • Remember that almost anything you do publicly (participate in community meetings, volunteer with various organizations, attend school, publish a document, et. al.) may end up posted online. Google yourself and see what comes up.
  • Take care with your online privacy. For example, don't order anything online, clear your browser cache/cookies and disconnect from the internet after each use, use only publicly available wi-fi networks as opposed to home or work internet connections, encrypt or use anonymous remailers for email, don't fill out any online forms, etc.
  • Make sure all of your digital documents and computer itself are password protected with a "good" password, not the name of your first child or birth date.
  • Use cash for all purchases instead of a credit or debit card.
  • Work for yourself instead of for an employer.
  • If you do work for an employer, be aware of how employee actions/work/online habits/personal information is tracked (ie: don't send personal email from a work computer, don't use the same passwords at work as you do for personal use, don't make personal phone calls from the office, etc.).
  • Make it a habit not to give out information about yourself. Practice answering generic personal questions with a non-answer and also practice steering the conversation away from yourself.
  • Consider the amount of surveillance where you live/work and choose your environment accordingly. Usually the more rural, poorer, less developed areas have much less surveillance than metropolitan areas.
  • Shred all documents that have any personal information on them as soon as your are through using them.
  • Close the blinds when it is dusk. It's amazing to drive through a neighborhood at night and see how many homes you can clearly see into simply because the people don't close their blinds!
  • Drive a non-descript car sans stickers or other identifying marks; tint the windows; and always park your vehicle in your garage.
  • Guard any document that includes your personal information (ie: show a passport instead of your driver's license if you need to show ID, refuse to allow your Social Security number to be used as an identifier such as on an insurance card or driver's license, keep personal documents in a safe when not in your immediate possession).
  • Consider having medical and dental work done in a foreign country.
  • Keep your DNA, fingerprints, retinas and any other traceable elements to yourself.
  • If you have a bank account, make sure it is used in a quite "average" way--no large deposits or withdrawals, monthly balances should roughly match what you claim on your taxes, etc.
  • Consider your options when purchasing items that are attached to your name (home, car, firearms, for example).
  • Know your rights regarding privacy issues and enforce them.
  • Don't give other people a reason to talk about you. Anything "flashy" from clothing to jewelry to your social life is fertile ground for gossip. Present yourself as if you are the most generic person on the plant.
  • Plan for what you would do in an emergency--keep in mind that 911 calls trace back to your home or cell's location, also they are recorded from the moment you call not when the dispatcher answers; consider your right to remain silent and use it; have cash on hand to use during an emergency; consider the ramifications of drawing attention to yourself (how would your life be impacted if your sound bite made the evening news should you be on scene during a major news event).


  1. Very interesting. Thanks for the tips.

  2. How To Be Invisible: The essential guide to protecting your personal privacy, your assets and your life

    by J.J. Luna is a good resource for this also.

  3. I keep pointing out these things to the spouse, who doesn't seem to see how obvious these things are. They seem 100% common sense to me and I'm always shocked when people don't think of these things (like having your name on your mailbox!!!)