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The Data Trail we leave where ever we travel

August 26, 2016
Essential Liberty

Lets start this post with a quote from Ben Franklin 1759 “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  This is the actual original quote, although it has been requoted inaccurately as well.  In this day and age we give up an enormous amount of Liberty to purchase our government a little temporary safety.

It is near impossible to go anywhere without leaving a trail that can be followed.  Some people leave less of a trail and in some countries it is easier to not leave a trail.  There are a great many things we can do to minimize the trail we leave but it takes significant effort to leave little or no trail behind.  The most important thing to remember is 99% success at not leaving a trail is 0% effective.  All it takes is leaving one bread crumb and a trail that can be followed is started.

So the real question is why bother trying.  There are a number of possible answers.  The first, because you resent government watching you.  The second is because you just want to get away from the world.  And also, you may simply be paranoid of the government and want to protect your privacy.  Perhaps the more intelligent answer is that you do not resent government watching, but you resent government not being held accountable for who they watch and why and how they store, share and use the data they do capture.

Take a look at a few examples of ways you can be tracked:

  1. Your cell phone can be tracked by its IMEI ID via cell towers and can be triangulated.
  2. Government can use fake cell towers to do a man in the middle attack on your call and data to watch everything as it passes by.
  3. You can also track header information from calls and texts.  Also any app that runs in the background on your phone can be used to track you.
  4. Every time your email goes out to check for new messages or any app like Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Snapshot, Instagram, LinkedIn etc. check for updates they leave an record that can be traced back to a location.
  5. The GPS on your phone can be used to betray you by allowing the phone company to retrieve exact, realtime location information directly from your phone as you are moving around.
  6. Making purchases leaves a paper trail.  Every time a credit or debit card is used, there is a record of where and when.
  7. Every time you walk into or passed a store you are on camera in real time but also recorded.  While you walk thru a store, even with hundreds of cameras, they can follow you from camera to camera.

Tracking data is only part of the equation.  Building a database with enough data can help turn data that appears to be anonymous into data that can be used to identify you.   Once a database of your behavior is established, advertisers, stores, cell companies, government or anyone who has access to this data can also start to analyze the data to determine patterns that can be used to predict your future behavior based on past behavior.

Perhaps the question should not be, should companies and governments have the right to track you or not, but rather if they are going to track you how will they be held accountable to some code of conduct and some level of transparency in their operation?  Also if they have a right to collect data, should you not have a right to see that data they collect?  Should there also not be a standard practice for how to collect the data, store the data, secure the data, use the data and share the data?   Should this also not be legislated in a national way similar to a Constitution, guaranteeing  these rights to all citizens similar to the universal right to freedom and the right to not be discriminated against etc?  Finally should citizens not have a fair expectation that their government should lead by example?

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