Be Smart, Be Invisible

September 11, 2016

     These days, you almost don’t even have to look for the surveillance state creeping its ugly head to see it. It’s everywhere. And with Oliver Stone’s SNOWDEN movie being released this Friday, it’s sure to turn the awareness factor on high and bring the debate to a kitchen table near you.

     Neither presidential candidate has spoken out against any such surveillance state, or in favor of Snowden, whatsoever. Make no mistake, this election will set the tone for the wave of Washington-style surveillance into the next several years.

     It’s up to you and me, to make a stand for the rights that we hold dear. The same rights that our children are hoping we hold dear. Be aware of bills, (like this one), that are being introduced to put a further stranglehold on our liberties and take proper action in whatever way feels appropriate for you. But do something.

     We are actually living in the world that is very similar to what George Orwell wrote about in 1984. It’s just also the same world that Aldous Huxley wrote about too, in Brave New World. Either way, the time for change is now. Things like this and this are unacceptable.

Let's change it up.

Be smart. Be invisible.​

Be indivisible.

Face the facts. Clear your tracks.​

Privacy Vs. Anonymity – To Know But Not To Know

     As the privacy/anonymity debate becomes a bigger, more popular debate, I keep hearing the two terms used interchangeably more often. They’re in the same realm, but still different concepts. Let’s clarify the difference between Privacy and Anonymity.

     Most of us don’t expect and aren’t looking for total anonymity. For example, most of us don’t expect anonymity regarding where we live. It wasn’t that long ago that everyone used telephone books. There were very few people who chose to have their phone number and street address unlisted. This we could say, is a matter of anonymity. If you don’t want me to know where you live, or if I drive by your house but it can’t be disclosed who lives there- this is anonymity.

     On the other hand, privacy really goes a little deeper. So for example, you may be fine with me knowing where you live, but that doesn’t mean that you want me to just walk in your front door, or peek through your windows. Maybe you don’t care about being anonymous, but you still expect privacy. There’s your name, phone number and street address in the phone book, but that doesn’t mean I can drive over and walk in the front door like I own the place. This is privacy.

     In modern culture, we have generally agreed to a degree of openness. Or a particular lack of anonymity. At least at times. If I want the Post Office to deliver a letter for me, I understand that I am asking a stranger to deliver this piece of mail to the addressee on my behalf. That doesn’t mean that I permit them to open it and examine the contents whatsoever, right? In fact, that’s a federal offense.

     What I find massively interesting, is that in the digital world, these concepts that we’ve grown accustomed to, have completely been turned upside down, inside out and thrown away. Gmail can (and does) open your email, examine its contents and does whatever it can do to literally profit from it. If you write an email to your mom telling her you're looking to say, buy a new blender, you might just start seeing ads for kitchen appliances the next time you’re on Google. But it’s ok because you signed up to use their service and they told you they could do this if/when they wanted. And when you clicked through, agreeing to their Terms of Use, you essentially told the mailman he could read your mail for his own reasons and to his own benefit.

This is a total lack of privacy and it is everywhere on the internet. Everywhere. And it’s getting worse at an alarming rate. Make sure you're in charge of what you wish to be seen and protect that which you wish to keep private. Some things are alright to be "out there." And some not.

To know, but not to know too much. Anonymity? Privacy?

You decide.​

The Policy Update They Don’t Want You To See

     “We’ve updated our privacy policy.”

     There are just too many companies (websites) that won’t inform you of this. And it’s rarely a series of changes made in your favor. The worst culprits of this practice are social media sites. For the fact that they make their money by selling us out with all the information we offer them all day long, it’s of little to no interest to protect our privacy. In fact, these kinds of sites will suggest forgetting that you have any privacy to be concerned about in the first place.​

     On their site, that is true.​

     The truth is, they don’t REALLY have to answer to you. Make the product fun, and most of us will go along with the rules. The exception to this "habit" are financial sites, like banking sites, PayPal, etc. In fact, within the last few weeks, PayPal made an update to their privacy policy and informed their users of it.

     App developers are hungry to gorge on your privacy too. While the vast majority of app developers will list the specific changes they’ve made for the update, Facebook doesn’t give any details about any changes. Every time their app has an update, it’s always the same generic message:

     “Thanks for using Facebook! To make our app better for you, we bring updates to the App Store regularly. Every update of our Facebook app includes improvements for speed and reliability. As new features become available, we’ll highlight those for you in the app.”

     If you consider that Facebook is notorious for invading every morsel of privacy you don't intend to give away, then this generic message accompanying each update to the app is, at best, very misleading.

     That's an app, though. Most apps, if not all, give some insight to what the update is, though not usually related to privacy. Social media websites, as in viewing the site on a web browser, make no such announcement. On the contrary, they just change them from time to time, without any notice to you. It's part of the terms of use that you agreed to when you joined their special club.

     You know the "club" I mean. It's the same club they're using to beat your privacy to death every day you stay in their company.

     The title of the privacy policy update they don't want you to see: "You Have No Privacy Here."

     That's why more and more hackers, computer geeks and privacy advocates do not join social media sites. And why even more and more "everyday" people are deactivating their social media accounts.

     Just a little food for thought.



Everything You Want To Know, But Are Afraid To Ask

     Studies are coming out all the time now, confirming that the more we know we are being spied upon, the more it inhibits our inquiries and curiosities.

     When you go to post something on your Facebook page, Facebook can actually see what you type in the message box even if you delete it and change the words. So if you were banging your head on the floor trying to come up with a witty caption for that cat video you were posting, but everything you typed didn’t look good, Facebook has the whole history of your typing and deleting and retyping.​

     How does that make you feel?

     Well, wouldn’t you think that Google or YouTube would be the same? I mean, at this point, you’d have to assume so, even if you weren’t sure. So that basically means that the biggest sites on the Internet know the thoughts you’re thinking and trying to formulate, better than your closest confidant. They can put a whole psychological profile together on you and position you accurately to help make them money. Right?

     After all, that’s their purpose. To use you, and ALL the information that you provide… ALL the information, and find ways to monetize it. And if you see their numbers, you know they’re doing great at it.

     Again, I ask. How does that make you feel?

     Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram- these sites are here for one reason. To make you fall in love with them so hard, that you won’t realize what you’re giving up to use them. Not just your innermost thoughts, but arguably, more importantly, the WAY you think. When they can see your sequence of thoughts as you finalize a message to your friends and family, that’s as good as being in your head and watching the neurons fire.

     So, once more, how does that make you feel? When the Internet is the greatest single manmade resource for, well everything. You can learn anything. You can make money a zillion ways. Meet new people and find long lost friends. But at what cost? When the companies that provide the service by which we get to do all this stuff are trading our ability to use this technology only for our most inner, intimate thoughts? How does that change the way you act when you’re on Facebook? Searching for videos on YouTube? Researching controversial topics (nonstatus-quo) on Google? Do you police your thoughts? Reserve your creativity?

     Of course, there are alternatives. We’ve talked about that before on this site. Finding solutions to these issues that are growing and getting a stronger chokehold on the culture.

     What do we do when we have the whole world at our fingertips? If you had access to everything you want to know but are afraid to ask, for fear of whatever the reason could be, what would you do?

     Clear your tracks.​

Modern Times And Future Crimes

Life as you’ve known it is over. The world is becoming a very different place. No one has ever experienced life as what it's evolving into ever before. Your parents can't hold your hand or prepare you for what's coming. Your grandparents have no referential stories to share. The only ones that can give you a glimpse of the horizon are the ones studying what is on the precipice of technology and its dominating intentions for our culture.

That's the driving force behind Clear Your Tracks.

I’ve been hearing more and more elderly people saying that they’re relieved that they won’t see how scary things are going to get for the future generations with all the crazy technological advances. I tell them they have no idea how quickly those advances are occurring. If you plan on living the next five years, you’re going to see some crazy stuff.

Technology grows at an exponential rate. Look at the rate for which the internet itself gained users. It took nearly 3-4 decades before the internet gained 360 million users in the year 2000. In 2005, it reached its first billion. And it was only six more years before that number reached 2 billion in March 2011.

This kind of exponential growth has always proven hard for people to wrap their heads around and predict its effect. Life for humans in the industrialized nations is coming into a new world of interconnectedness with many millions more commonplace devices being released to the marketplace with wifi capabilities over the next few years.

These are our modern times and future crimes. It’s the wild, wild, web and it’s gearing up to become the wilder, wild, web and the only way to protect yourself is to know how to defend yourself.

There is no one coming to your rescue. You decide, right now, to make your move.

Clear your tracks.

You’re Crazy If You’re Not Paranoid

“Just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you.” Kurt Cobain

They’re cominggggg.

Actually, they’re here already.

The machines. Computers. Robots. Droids.

Call them what you wish, but they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future. I'm just speaking matter of factly here. Speaking generally, we can surmise as to why that is. Why are they here? Why were they invented, and why do we insist on their presence in our lives? These are quite subjective musings.

Ultimately, most might say because they’re fun. They provide a lot convenience and amusement, which is pretty high on the priority list in the modern, civilized cultures. Others would say they increase productivity. They allow more and perhaps even greater quality work to be done.

Additionally, governments certainly favor “the machines,” because it makes it easier to “manage” people, ala Carroll Quigley. That’s basically the game they play. If you can control their thoughts, you control their actions. And if you can get them to willfully volunteer those thoughts while relinquishing their right to any privacy about such rights so to get yourself off the hook, then we really have something special. Just make it so amusing and entertaining that most will not ask or care why. They’ll just consent.

Social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) is where most people spend their time online. If the “powers-that-be” wish to shape public opinion on a particular matter, it’s much easier to do that now with Facebook than it ever was 30 years ago with network news. We can see this in practice by the CIA’s involvement in Facebook, and Google (which owns YouTube.)

Technologies built right into the computers themselves can be used to track movements, monitor activity through the built-in camera and gain remote access to the microphone in your smartphone even if it’s turned off!

I’m not saying these things are coming. I’m saying they’re here! I’m typing on such a device, and you’re reading this from one right now. My friend, you’re crazy if you’re not paranoid. You know that word, “paranoid,” coming from the Greek meaning “outside the mind”? It’s like thinking outside the box or beyond the status quo. As more and more people become aware of the liberties that are being stripped away that box and the status quo will expand so that the “paranoid” will be seen as “ahead of their time.”

Of course, it helps that we have the documentation and technology to show that all this is really happening too.

Please Respect Our Privacy

Dear Internet status quo, please respect our privacy.

Not just when we have the bathroom door closed.

Not just when we have the “Do Not Disturb” sign hung.

Not just when it’s sealed in an envelope.

Not just when the doors are locked.

Not just when we are naked.

Not just when we’re on private property.


That means the Digital World too.

Like an email that is sent between two parties.

Pictures we share of our children.

How many cat videos I watch an hour.

Which political candidates I like and dislike.

Where I shop, what I search for, what I buy, how I paid for it and where it was sent.

What I blog and where I’m blogging from…

The list goes on but let the point be clear. Our rights in the physical world are much more easy to protect and police. Which means they’re also harder (not hard) to violate. In the digital world, which in one respect appears to be more freeform, it is much easier to spy and surveil on one another. While many people remain unaware of the vulnerabilities of the internet, the number of informed citizens is growing.

It won’t be in the too distant future that it will be commonplace for everyone to be aware of locking their virtual door and sealing their digital envelopes. Looking at the older generations still alive now, we see they are much more often than not, intimidated and unaware of how the internet works. On the other end, 5-year-olds are learning way more than what most of us might consider basics. These days kids are learning how to use the internet before they know how to ride a bike.

With this changing world, we need to adapt in empowering ways. Demand your rights. Demand your privacy. They’re available, but they won’t be served to you on the proverbial silver platter. You have to know them so you can demand them. Perhaps we can be polite?

“Please respect our privacy.”

…perhaps not.

I Want Privacy But There Isn’t Any

I came across a Tweet that kind of surprised me. Maybe it shouldn't have since it is an attitude many people are adopt. Nonetheless, it did.

The Tweet:

This matter of privacy online is extremely controversial, and the perspectives are varied. It's generally reduced to a matter of privacy vs. security. But what happens when privacy and security are not part of the equation?


Oh well. I'll just give up and give in? In other words, I want privacy, but there isn't any.

We all want privacy, and we all want to feel secure. And while we may each require these to things in varying degrees, there is no need of the body or spirit for complacency.

Be mindful of the road that leads to complacency.

An Ugly Lesson We Need To Learn

In one form or another, you’ve got ugly mail. Email, that is. And if you don’t know you do, you might wish you did. I’ll explain.

Did you know that you're being tracked by the actual people sending you an email? They can know if you’ve opened it, or if you clicked on a link inside it. What’s worse, they can even see what kind of device you are using and where you are!

Ugly mail, huh? Well, I’ll tell you about another kind of ugly email that you might actually want to have.

There is a service called… wait for it… Ugly Mail.

Ugly Mail informs you when an email is being tracked with a little “eye” icon. It’s not hugely known, partly because it only works for emails going to a Gmail account and you have to be using the Chrome browser. It’s had reports of slowing the loading of emails too. But, it generally seems to work…


When you go to download Ugly Mail, you get this disclaimer:

Maybe it’s legit; maybe it ’s not. Here’s the thing: it’s free. When something like this is free, and they admit to making “changes” it can mean they are making changes in THEIR favor so that may get a few bucks from an advertiser on the backend, or whatever it may be.

Not to pick on Ugly Mail, they’re just an example, (or warning). They provide a service. The service is to assist you in seeing who is tracking you. And they supposedly do that. Fair and square… As long as you agree to let them read and makes changes to your account. They don’t explain what exactly the changes are and why they’re necessary, even though the very service they are providing is about protecting privacy.

The bottom line is to be careful with the add-ons and plugins you use. You may agree or be comfortable with any tradeoffs, but just make sure you are aware of them. Especially when they are free.

They may not cost you money, but they likely cost you something.

Let Not One Bad Apple Ruin The Bunch

February 20, 2016

Apple has drawn a line in the sand, so to speak.

It is debatable as to what that line means and signifies, but there is a line nonetheless.

Earlier this week, Apple released a letter to its customers, explaining that the FBI is asking them to create a new kind of phone with a backdoor. A backdoor meaning it would give them a portal for surveilling "terrorists."

This all came about in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist investigation. There are details in this story still emerging by the hour, but one thing is definite: Apple has made a loud public statement opposing the very idea of stripping out essential aspects of its product that protect its customers privacy.

The FBI is using terrorism as an opportunity to get a foothold to something they've had trouble doing for a while. And making it a big public matter could be an effective strategy because there are still many Americans that all too willing to trade their liberty for safety.

Keep this in mind. Many people claim to be open to the FBI having remote access to their phones/computers, as long as it helps to protect them from "terrorists." The problem begins to pick up speed though when we develop a better understanding of their tactics and strategies. What they collect today from an innocent citizen could be used against that citizen 5-10 years from now.

If sometime down the road you do something that crosses them, they will use everything they can to make a case against you. Even if it was something that you said or wrote, privately, years ago. And they were able to do that because we granted them access to our private communications.

That is what it could look like. And you won't believe how the definition of "terrorist" could stretch. What if you were considered a "terrorist" if you supported an Independent or Libertarian candidate for President, and not a Republican or Democrat? What if you wrote on your Facebook page that you didn't agree with something the President said on TV? Could that make you a "terrorist" or a "threat" to national security? Stranger things have happened.

In summary, the FBI is proposing (trying to force Apple) to create a new kind of vulnerable phone that affects all of us. Even if you didn't care about NSA or FBI tracking and potentially building a case against you for the future, understand this- if you understood the phone the FBI wants Apple to create, you just wouldn't want it. I honestly believe that.

And remember, we're living in the physical world- nothing is 100% secure. Life comes with a degree of risk, and there's nothing any of us can do about that. But we should assume, demand, some "inalienable" right to protect ourselves, which includes our private thoughts. And "private thoughts" that we share are shared with the confidence that they will remain with those intended parties.

The bottom line is, in America, we have rights. As an American citizen, I have rights. Civil rights and constitutional rights. You, the government, your job is to protect my rights. Do not create legislation and policy that violate my rights.

I don't want to interfere with anyone else's "right" to live in fear and complacency, but I stand with Apple.


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