Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes
Modern surveillance is a lot more sophisticated than it used to be. Law enforcement and private investigators are relying less and less on time consuming and expensive methods of keeping track of your habits. Video surveillance systems are just one of those methods. But most high tech surveillance can be beaten by simple methods. The man of a thousand faces would be proud.
Video Surveillance Systems and Facial Recognition Software
Video surveillance systems are so widely used in large cities that they are unavoidable. The average New Yorker is caught 140 times a day on a surveillance camera. Guess which neighborhood has the most saturated video surveillance? You guessed it, the neighborhood with the highest muslim population in New York. No big deal, right? They are out in public so they have a right to record you and they still need someone to watch all 140 of those cameras, right?
Wrong. Facial recognition technology is now used extensively with the New York video surveillance systems. Being caught on camera becomes an easily searchable entry in a database. If someone wants to know your daily habits, they no longer need the resources to send a person out to actually follow you around. They need 2 minutes to do a database search.
So how can you fool facial recognition technology and avoid showing up in those databases. If you live in a place like New York where avoidance is practically impossible, Use low tech solutions like wearing a hood, hat, sombrero, V mask or other disguise to keep from being recognized. Use infrared LED lights or laser pointers to blur the image in most surveillance cameras. Use makeup to fool facial recognition technology.
Unfortunately, as software and hardware capabilities increase, all of these methods may become obsolete soon if identification of your height, weight, mannerisms, and how you walk can be made. You might have to add acting classes to your stage makeup classes. These capabilities are still a few years away from successful implementation.
Apple and Microsoft products phone home to notify their home office every time they are turned on, opened up, or used. When you register those products you are leaving a trail of your location and your computer habits.
The first way to avoid serious disclosure of your personal location and habits is to avoid giving out your name associated with the purchase or registration of the products. Pay for the item in cash, otherwise there will be a transactional database tying it to you. If the software or hardware requires registration, register in the name of a business entity or a pseudonym, if permitted.
The more advanced solution is to avoid Microsoft and Apple products altogether. How in the world can anyone do that? Use open source software and avoid using Apple products. For example, buy a generic PC laptop with cash. Instead of using Windows as an operating system, use Linux, a free, open source operating system. Use OpenOffice.org programs instead of Microsoft Office.
Cell phone tracking will be an increasingly popular form of surveillance in the near future. The telecom companies are already able to keep track of them at almost all times. A simple request by certain law enforcement for those records, regardless of probable cause, will give them all kinds of records. There are already tons of apps that people get for their phones that are hosted by private companies that broadcast the phone’s location back to the company at all times. There is no expectation of privacy in those records.
You can still pay for a prepaid cell phone in cash without revealing your name. Otherwise, remove the battery from your phone if you attend a protest against your congressman or any other time you don’t want your phone to reveal your location.
As more disclosure of financial transactions is required, there will be more and more surveillance of you based on your money. At the very least, you can support HB 5141 to repeal the 1099 tax reporting requirements for all cash purchases over $600 over the course of a year.
Dataveillance from video surveillance systems, computer use and cell phone use is creeping into common acceptance by the public. There is the potential for harm from such activities. Protect yourself from harm in whatever way you think is appropriate, like maybe reviving the role of the man of a thousand faces.