Phase 1: Begin the “leftist drift”
I get a lot of questions from friends and family about avoiding or subverting digital surveillance. Some folks have gone as far as having a VPN, but that’s about it. Some don’t even have that and only use a standard Windows box. This is an attempt at broadly explaining to that audience how to improve one’s “digital profile.”
Think of yourself as an actor in a play:
“Former hard core right wing gun guy has started becoming more concerned about the new Delta COVID variant. Reading more articles has caused him to question being a Republican because they don’t care about all the people dying. He’s slowing “losing his religion” and is becoming more and more ashamed of his past affiliations with a racist privileged political party. So is his wife.
What would this kind of person do online?
- Do nothing drastic to start so it doesn’t show up as a life event on any analytics platforms that consume your metadata
- Start lightly browsing moderate-left websites every once in a while but increasingly over time. Pretend you’re lefty-curious, push the browsing habits further left over time.
- Slowly start unsubscribing from any right-leaning newsletters that are attached to any “surveillance” emails systems gmail, yahoo, etc., while simultaneously subscribing to Biden’s official list, maybe eventually add BLMs or the Sunrise movement. The John Brown Gun Club is always a good one to join (eventually) if you’re into guns and want to keep purchasing them.
- The fake “leftist drift” works even better if some of your internet traffic isn’t over the VPN. I.e. your home ISP or cell phone. Yes really. You’re trying to give them easy data. Humans are lazy. Give them a fake picture of who you’re becoming. Don’t like all the lefty shit on Amazon Prime? No problem. Stream it while doing chores around the house and just cut the volume down. You don’t have to like the content, you’re painting a picture for their analytics system. This can be done with YouTube or any other streaming platform.
- Permitted it doesn’t scandalize family or trusted friends that you can’t talk to in person, you can do the same “leftist drift” on social media. Otherwise, just unsubscribe from the various right-leaning groups and slowly reduce your browsing until you “lose interest” and never log in again. Many lefties actually hate Facebook also believe it or not.
- If you and your spouse are on the same page, start texting each other articles with increasing levels of anger I.e.
“What do you think about Gaetz? [[link_to_critical_cnn_article]]”
“I can’t freaking beleive this! [[link_to_wapo]]”
Phase 2: Subverting data collection
Once you’ve started Phase 1 above, you can start Phase 2. They can be done in order or simultaneously.
I’m not personally a big fan on getting rid of your phone or getting rid of your “normal” digital profile. I’m also not a big fan of getting rid of other digital systems like Windows, even if they are compromised and you’re moving to Linux. Those systems can be be used to keep normal patterns of life while you add new ones with more privacy.
- Keep your normal phone and just keep up the “leftist drift” strategy in terms of browsing. Only use your phone for doing “normal” life events that anyone would expect to see on your phone. I.e. Price comparisons when grocery shopping, going to your normal retail stores for normal purchase.
- Start randomly cutting off your phone during certain times. You can always text your wife that you need a “digital detox.” Lefties do this also. You’re leaving a digital trail with cover for action by sending that text. This eventually becomes a normal pattern of life for your phone signal to go dead on occasion. If you want the security of knowing you can make a call with your phone in an emergency, just turn it off and keep it in a faraday container so it can’t dial out unless you really need it.
- Once you’ve established a normal life pattern of shutting off your phone, you can start cutting it off any time you need to go to a training class or want to go buy some controversial items at the local gun shop. Obviously at this point, you need to buy with cash and do all the extras regarding facial recognition or plate scanning.
- Start adding in a VPN. VPNs are extremely popular with everyone these days. In my opinion you can even keep your old cheap VPN even if it’s not trustworthy permitted it uses vetted software like OpenVPN or Wireguard. After all, it’s good practice to use a VPN on a phone when traveling and you can feed that some garbage data about your lefty browsing habits anyway.
- Start using Linux for basic web browsing. There’s absolutely nothing weird about Linux. Tons of people use it these days. You can even hook up a less trustworthy VPN as the outer VPN connection on your Linux box. Some people don’t like this but really, your ISP logs all your connections to this outer VPN, so it’s not like they don’t know you’re using it even if you did pay for it in cash. There’s no point trying to hide it as they know you’re using it.
- Start piping Tor over your outer VPN. The Tor browser has a lot of built-in protections against tracking and obviously uses the Tor network. This isn’t perfect but let’s say you don’t trust your VPN fully; they’d still to have to deal with sifting or analyzing Tor data over that VPN connection.
Remember that whatever you do on a “raw” ISP connection should be compartmentalized to that connection. Whatever is done on your VPN connection should only be compartmentalized to that connection. Whatever is done on your Tor Browser connection should only be compartmentalized to Tor.
Don’t mix them. Make sure Tor is only used inside of your outer VPN connection. It matters. Tor looks a whole lot worse when running over a home ISP connection without going through a VPN. Your ISP can and likely will report Tor usage used over a simple home internet connection.
There are a lot of other things we could cover but this should be a decent “beginners” version. Notice the term “outer VPN.”
An intermediate or advanced user may want to start using two VPNs. The outer one is the one your ISP already knows about so no need to be too secretive about it. Just pay for it with your normal credit card. “They” know you use it. A second VPN bought anonymously can be used to run through the first. Again, that’s an intermediate or advanced technique.
For now Starting the “leftist drift” and using a VPN with Tor on Linux can make a big difference.