Life off grid?
This page considers enthusiasm for living 'off grid',
ie in a way that evades supposedly ubiquitous surveillance.
It covers -
UK 'Off Grid' polemicist Nick Rosen
claimed in 2007 that
live in the most watched-over society in Europe. Exposure,
especially in The Observer, has done little
to hold the state and private sector in check. Phone
records have become police records ... and CCTV camera
records are now fed into the automatic registration
number computer. Credit and store-card records have
become marketing records and our email addresses are
points of entry for all sorts of crime and spam. It's
time to fight back using all the legal means at our
disposal. We need to duck under the radar of government
surveillance, credit-checking agencies, internet and
mobile phone companies or the DVLA.
to that expression of defeatism by commenting that
go "off-grid" now, you pretty much have to
turn yourself into a counterespionage operative, a secret
agent living in a yurt and nibbling the bruised leaves
of a discarded cabbage.
might add that wearing an alfoil beanie while gnawing
on sundried roadkill and reading dystopian
or chiliastic literature
is also useful in ducking under the radar, although far
less practical than agitating for law reform.
Rosen's recommendations for action include -
an 'untraceable' mobile phone - "Travel to a town
you have never visited before, to an area with no CCTV
cameras and ask a homeless person to buy a pay-as-you-go
mobile phone for you. That way no shop will have your
image on its CCTV. ... Or dispense with the phone altogether
and return to the humble payphone, now the preserve
of tourists and the super-poor. ... if you stick to
your traceable phone, leave it switched off whenever
possible to avoid having your movements tracked".
email and computer - "work out a private code with
friends you want to communicate with" and use "sophisticated
software that deletes all traces of your activities
from your computer"
invisible to CCTV cameras", apparently to be achieved
by avoiding precincts and wearing disguises
"Stay off spam mailing lists" - "Each
time you submit your email address to register for a
new website, create a special address, either on a free
webmail service or on your own email server so you have
control over it. Then, if the company later sells your
email address or loses it through poor security, you
will know exactly who to blame"
Prevent supermarkets knowing your shopping habits -
"Swap your supermarket loyalty
card with a friend or acquaintance every few months,
after having cashed in any points you have accumulated"
and "use cash more often - save your credit card
Avoid utility companies' marketing departments - "Live
off-grid, unplugged from the system with solar panels
and rainwater harvesting. There are tens of thousands
of people living without mains power, water or sewerage,
in isolated cottages, behind hedgerows in caravans or
in groups of yurts in country fields"
outside the system - "There are full-time scavengers
living off food retrieved from supermarket bins, because
vast amounts of produce are simply thrown away on the
eve of their sell-by date. Another way to avoid buying
food is to barter for it."
acknowledged "it may seem almost comical to go to
these lengths" but claimed that consumers cannot
trust business or government to "safeguard our data
or use it ethically, so we must provide our own safeguards".
Surprisingly Rosen did not advocate adding 'noise' to
the surveillance grid, so that people can hide in plain
sight. Other pages of this site, for example, note that
some consumers respond to intrusive questioning and corporate
abuse of trust by obligingly supplying false data. One
result is the databases populated with 99 year old female
billionaires who live in Antactica, work as engineers
and speak seven languages.
survivalism and surveillance
Notions that everyone who is not skulking in a stormwater
drain or hedgerow is subject to pervasive and effective
surveillance - including monitoring by Echelon
and tracking by RFIDs -
feed into survivalism, a belief-system that encompasses
'end times' eschatology,
racist paranoia about the US Federal Reserve Bank or the
Trilateral Commission, paramilitary organisations and
the virtues of being as one with nature.
'Direct action' by individuals such as the Unabomber and
by paramilitary groups may in turn result in surveillance:
paranoids sometimes have enemies (and get watched) because
they behave in ways that are threatening. Going 'off grid'
by refusing to pay taxes or engage with registration
regimes and by use of mechanisms such as identity
crime (eg subverting surveillance through false identity
papers) is typically illegal, on occasion provoking a
cycle of regulatory action and reaction that 'justifies'
the claimed need to "duck under the radar"
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