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The attack on privacy by Big Brother and his Little Brother
corporations is more than mere theft. It’s murder. It’s the murder of
individuality. Once-free people are becoming mere resources to be tracked, cataloged
More people are waking up to the harm being done to their freedom by
universal ID, surveillance and personal data-tracking. They’re looking
around, sleepy-eyed, and asking, “But what do I do about it?”
I’ve said before and I’ll say again: There is no one answer.
And there are no easy answers. The onslaught against privacy is
such a blitzkrieg that humanity in general may be as helpless as
the Poles were against Hitler 60 years ago this month.
But even if that pessimistic view is accurate (and I hope it’s not)
individuals can be privacy partisans — if we’re willing to make
the effort and take the risks.
I have no silver bullet to offer in this fight against evil. (And
beware of anyone who claims to.) You are going to need to examine a lot
of options, weigh them against your own lifestyle and personality — and
run them through your own BS filter, besides (as there’s a lot of
there, or a lot of techniques that may work for a short time, only to
bring trouble down on you later).
But there are good techniques for those gutsy or determined enough to
use them. Let me introduce you to a man who’s got a lot of them.
Sheldon Charrett is a private detective — a professional snoop. He’s
also “… an individual who’s experienced a lifetime of injustice and
finally got sick of it.” He has written several books including The
Modern Identity Changer and his newest, Identity,
Privacy, and Personal Freedom: Big Brother vs. The New
Resistance. Both books are published by Paladin Press.
New Resistance is a 225-page compendium of privacy how-tos.
Some chapters — like those on Internet and telephone privacy — focus
on common-sense advice anyone can use (like how to make sure your browser
doesn’t automatically give your name to every website operator). Other
chapters are more hardcore — like the one on how to obtain real
government documents with an unreal identity (easiest if you’re young),
and the one that contains very detailed instructions on how to make your
own ID, complete with homemade faux hologram.
The book is pricey — $40 (Ouch!) — and no, it doesn’t contain any
silver bullets. But it does hold a wealth of useful info — info that’s
as up-to-date as any can be in this time of mega-encroachment.
I asked Sheldon about New Resistance and privacy:
Can you give me your pocket opinion on why privacy protection is
Privacy has been evanescing since the dawn of the industrial age. But
with the recent quantum leaps of what I’ll call the computer age,
privacy is now violently boiling away — evaporating before our very
eyes. It’s a classic case of technology far outpacing sociology. If we
protect our privacy today, our children will be born into a world
where privacy can only be read about in history books — if such books
will still be allowed — and ultimately be inured to further attempts to
crush the spirit of the individual.
For example, can you imagine a congressman 200 years ago proposing to
the House a numbering scheme for social security purposes? He wouldn’t
have gotten off the floor in one piece. But today, descendants of those
congressmen routinely propose ways of using the Social Security number
to more efficiently control the masses. Why? Because when they were
born, the number already existed. For them, the number is a fact of life
to be accepted. There is no longer a question of whether we should have
such a number to begin with. Rather the question is, “How do we use it?”
I think this is very unfortunate.
SSN issues are becoming more difficult every day. Do you have some
recommendations for ordinary working people to avoid universal numbering
in their lives?
To begin, I’d recommend not working for any large outfits unless
you’re willing to put up a large fight to keep yourself unnumbered. Work
for small businesses and ask to be paid as an independent contractor.
Many small businesses will actually prefer this arrangement.
Medium-sized businesses will want to give you a 1099-MISC at the end of
the year, at which point you’ll have to provide a taxpayer
identification number. Just tell them it has been “applied for.” If
you meet resistance, use the tactics from Chapter 10, “Banking Privacy.”
Many of those techniques will apply here.
What are the three most important actions (or attitudes) for
One: Question authority. Two: Agitate, agitate, agitate. Three: If
someone makes you feel the same way you feel when the doctor says, “Bend
over and grab your ankles,” then don’t go along with it.
Give three easy techniques people can practice to guard their
privacy in everyday life
Memorize a pocketbook SSN (a “stock” Social Security number that
doesn’t belong to anyone; several are listed in New Resistance)
and use it on quasi-bureaucratic forms (apartment rental applications,
patient “data sheets” used by dentists and doctors, video store
applications, etc.) It saves you the hassle of explaining why you
shouldn’t have to give anybody a number and it won’t ever be confused
with a real SSN that belongs to somebody else.
On Internet forms that require a phone number, use your e-mail
address, preferably an anonymous one set up through Yahoo!, Hotmail,
etc. Most forms will allow an e-mail address in the phone number field.
(Note from Claire: Also, I’ve never found a form that refuses to accept
the phony phone number 555-5555.)
Open up an anonymous (new ID) bank account long distance. It’s much
easier to fake a photocopy of a drivers’ license than the real thing. Of
course, there’s a bit more to it than that, and the details can be found
in my book. But I’ve had some very good results using homemade docs to
open bank accounts, etc.
I notice you don’t spend a lot of time talking about offshore ID
documents, corporations, bank accounts, etc., which many writers
consider the potential salvation of freedom. Why is that?
I am definitely not opposed to any of them. But research and my own
personal experience showed that the facts are changing almost weekly —
thanks mostly to our own fedgov who is pushing (if not blackmailing)
foreign governments to relax their bank secrecy laws and privacy
policies. I hope to see at least some of these offshore governments
keep the starch in their laws and policies, but too many of them see the
U.S. as the hand that feeds them. Sadly, I’m not holding out too much
hope on that front.
What is the proper role of government in privacy protection?
Ideally I’d like to see national referenda to let the people decide
the issues. Our reps are clearly not looking out for us. How many
people would vote for a national ID card? How many people
would vote in favor of continuing the random unconstitutional
profile-based rectal and vaginal searches that happen every day to
innocent Americans at airports across the country? I don’t know of any,
Government definitely doesn’t belong in Internet encryption.
I’m tired of all the privacy-restricting proposals in the name of the
“War on Drugs.” If they really want to stop drugs from entering this
country, how ’bout targeting the cops and D.A.’s who accept payola from
drug runners? Why not stick a few rubberized fingers in their
body cavities? I think you’d see faster results.
What do you foresee for the future?
I see things getting worse — much worse — before they get better. I
don’t think I’ll see a revolution in my lifetime. I expect a quiet
upsurge of the New Resistance, movement toward more rural areas as they
are still available, some attempts at new communities and secessions
governments. As a direct result of this: more Wacos. I expect the New
Resistance to bubble like lava beneath the Earth’s surface for a long
time, popping up here and there, occasionally being quelled by the feds,
but always gaining strength. I believe a revolution will come in the
next or subsequent generation. I believe it will be violent. I do not
know which side will win.
Anything else you want to add?
Only because that last answer seemed so cynical. I think we should
all do our small part, but then I think we should live. The evanescing
of privacy is tragic enough without each of us living a silent death
opposing it. For every hour I spend fighting for my rights, I spend an
equal hour enjoying the rights I have. Despite where we may be headed
there’s plenty to enjoy: mountains, beaches, small towns, eating nachos,
ice cream, watching kittens — whatever you like. I guess I just don’t
want folks to forget that.
My favorite Sheldon Charrett lines come in the concluding chapter
of The Modern Identity Changer. Would you care to share them?
“You have one great advantage over the bureaucratic
You can think.
And I suggest you do.”
- National Organization for
ACLU’s privacy pages
- The Electronic Privacy
Information Center’s (EPIC) “A to Zs of Privacy”
guide to online privacy resources
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation
How To Get It, How To Enjoy It by Bill Kaysing
for Sale by Michael Chesbro (Much more of a how-to than its
title implies; lots of practical information on legal ways to protect
Am Not a Number! by Claire Wolfe