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Apr 10

Can you disappear in surveillance Britain?

The UK apparently ranks 3 in the world, behind Russia and China, for societal surveillance. David Bond tried to disappear off the grid for as long as he could and hired a couple of private investigators, armed with only his name and photo, to hunt him down. A sort of PG-rated version of The Running Man (the book, not the movie), and also reminiscent of Wired writer Evan Ratliff’s attempt to go dark. The aim for Bond was to produce material for a documentary, but the experience drove him a little bit nutty in the process.

Before going on the run, he made 80 formal requests to government and commercial organisations for the information they held on him. He piled the replies on his floor, appalled by the level of detail. The owners of the databases knew who his friends were, which websites he’d been looking at, and where he had driven his car. One commercial organisation was even able to inform him that, on a particular day in November 2006, he had “sounded angry”. It was more than he knew himself.

Incidentally, he was tracked down quicker than Ratliff, but only because he went to see his pregnant wife who needed to go to the hospital.

Stuff like Facebook is not so bad, actually, because you still have control over what you disclose and how to disclose it. However, it’s the stuff that’s collected about you that you don’t know that is scary. Incidentally, that includes Facebook, which tracks virtually every mouseclick and thing you do on their site (and now with Open Graph, things you do on others’ sites as well). Their privacy team must be mighty busy, but it’s gotta be really interesting work as well.

  7:16pm  •  Current Affairs  •  Law  •   •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment