With the New Year approaching, many people make resolutions to accomplish new goals and develop positive habits that will move their lives forward. One of mine is to continue to exercise more and to eat fewer cookies. Exercise is already a habit for me, and the toughest part will be to cut down on the sweets. It all starts with a goals though so time will tell how committed I am to being less of a cookie monster.
As a privacy enthusiast, I also have some goals to work toward in the New Year. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the ‘process’ of leading a more private lifestyle. The process has taken years to implement, and developing the habits to support that lifestyle have taken a lot of thought and compromise. Reflecting on what I have accomplished so far, and planning for what privacy will mean in my life in the coming year has been a focus for me these past few days. Everyone reading this is at a different stage with their privacy learning curve. Some are just beginning to learn, some are waist deep in opt-outs, removal letters, and daily self-stalking exercises. Some have begun to explore more advanced methods of achieving privacy and security, which should prove to be a fascinating adventure. Others may have reached the point where the only thing left to do is to monitor their progress and cement daily habits that support all of their hard work in this area.
I encourage everyone to take time to reflect and identify what the next 12 months could mean for your strategy. For me there are several areas that I have chosen to focus on, which I am calling my Privacy Resolutions.
Back To The Basics
I plan to read and review The Complete Privacy & Security Desk Reference again. This reference manual is the foundation for anyone’s pursuit of a more private, secure, and safe lifestyle, and the every time I review the material I learn something new. Every professional knows that the foundation for their success comes from learning the fundamentals. Remember, “amateurs practice until they do it right, but professionals practice until they cannot do it wrong”.
I am also going to review Justin Carroll’s ’30-Day Security Challenge’ again, making sure I have incorporated what he teaches into my plan. There is a tremendous amount of valuable information to be learned from those best practices and I want to be sure to align the different aspects my strategy with what is offered there. This is a great tool for beginners and advanced users alike, and I routinely refer people to this collection of information for reference.
A personal goal for this coming year will be to make all of my purchases as anonymous as possible. I plan to withdrawal cash on a regular basis throughout each month, keep some of it on hand, and purchase Vanilla Visa cards in large amounts with the rest. Having both options with me at all times will keep daily purchases under the radar and the itemized details hidden from my bank statement. I have been using Blur for some time now for many online purchases, and recently set up Privacy.com the way I want it for even more options when shopping online. Those two tools, and a regular supply of Amazon gift cards have been making online shopping a breeze. As a last option, a credit card with an alias name will be used when other options cannot be used for some reason. The goal is to see my monthly bank statements list all transactions as either, ATM withdrawal, Blur, Privacy.com, or in limited situations purchases using my alias credit card. This will be a huge focus in the new year and I am looking forward to the challenge.
Having completed all known opt-outs and removals for myself, I plan to focus on my immediate family over the next year. With their permission, I am going to submit opt-outs for each of them in a systematic manner to remove them from mailing lists, data brokers, and people search sites. Call me crazy, but I enjoy the challenge of this huge undertaking. They won’t do it on their own, and they aren’t committed (yet) to changing their habits to support this lifestyle. Still, I think that helping them remove as much as possible will be a great way to help out. It should reduce their exposure a great deal, and may be motivation for them to follow along with my blog a little more often too! I am going to set up a Sudo profile for each of them, which will provide an temporary email and phone number for use with the removal process. When complete, the profiles will be deleted. At the very least, their junk mail will be reduced, their address will be seen in fewer places, and their credit profiles will be locked down. Of course, a copy of the CP&S Desk Reference is available to them anytime they want more education.
Sharing The Knowledge
Most importantly, I want to share my success and the many lessons learned in this pursuit with anyone who wants to learn more. For many people, the journey begins with watching their information disappear from Spokeo, sending their first encrypted Signal message, setting up a VPN, or maybe opening up a PO Box for themselves. Technology changes constantly, and new tools that enhance our privacy and also circumvent it emerge every week. I plan to stay educated on new methods that support my goals and to share what I learn with others. Michael Bazzell and Justin Carroll are shining examples of how a willingness to share knowledge can enhance the lives of so many people who share the same passion. There are many others who do the same and that makes us all safer and less vulnerable. I hope to offer something back in return as times goes on. As you learn more, share that information with whoever will listen, and encourage people you know to protect their personal information by making small changes. Take time to ‘show’ them how easy it is to use a password manager, or to sign up for ProtonMail, or enable Two Factor Authentication for their accounts.
So that’s my list of privacy resolutions for the New Year. A focus on studying the basics, and some specific areas to concentrate on going forward. The number of people who actually embrace a more private and secure lifestyle and commit to it, is actually pretty small. Those who do put in the work, educate themselves, and change their habits are in a very small group. An analogy may be similar to looking at the number of people who join a gym during the month of January in hopes of getting into shape. By the time April rolls around, the once crowded gym has fewer and fewer people, lifting weights, and running the treadmills. Even fewer are still attending that Karate class they signed up for. An extremely small percentage of those will be motivated and committed enough to one day earn their black belt. That is how I see this endeavor. I believe the benefits to one’s safety and security, the piece of mind it affords, and ability to control the information that is known about me is worth the effort. It is worth the continued study and commitment level that’s required to do it right. Cheers, to a productive New Year in the privacy arena for everyone who enjoys the challenge.