There are many good reasons why one would like to live under the radar. You don’t have to be on the run from the law like in an old western movie. Perhaps you fear what could be the long-term consequences of our surveillance society, or perhaps you just prefer your privacy.
Whatever your reasons are, here is what you can do to live a life under the government and corporate radar.
To live under the radar, you should first and foremost consider how you use the internet and your cell phone. Additionally, you should avoid drawing attention to yourself by dressing and behaving in an inconspicuous manner.
That’s perhaps easier said than done, so let’s dig a little deeper into this question and see what we can do not to be noticed in our day-to-day life.
A very effective way of going unnoticed is not using the internet at all and not owning any devices that can connect to the internet.
Since that might not be a realistic option in this day and age, the second best thing is to use these devices only when needed. I.e., read books instead of streaming video or surfing the web.
Below are suggestions on how to minimize your imprint and trackability on the internet, but remember that anything you do could potentially be tracked, regardless of how well you guard yourself.
An overarching rule is to decentralize that data that you do give out. In other words, use different services from different companies instead of relying on one or a few businesses for all your digital use. A lot of tracking is done by combining several data sources, like your email address from one, your IP address from another, and GPS-data from a third. If this data is spread out among several companies, it is much harder for one ff them to profile and track you.
Don’t Use Social Media
Using social media almost guarantees that you will be profiled and tracked, especially if you use the large companies that are known to ignore all privacy concerns. Facebook (and Instagram) in particular. These platforms not only know what you post and even watch on their site, but they also track your behavior all around around the internet by cookies and web trackers.
In general, don’t make accounts on any online platforms unless you really have to. Not just social media but any place that asks for your details. And if you have to sign up somewhere, make sure only to fill in the mandatory information fields, which are often marked with an asterisk. And only ever provide your real name, address, and phone number if legally required to do so.
Use encrypted Internet Connecitons
Most websites these days use SSL, which is a way of encrypting communication between you and the website. Websites that use SSL use the https protocol, which is an extention of the old http.
Most modern browsers will warn you if a site is not secured by SSH:
If you see this warning, anything you enter into the data (credit card information, comments, etc.) can be logged by third parties, such as your internet service provider (ISP) or anyone else who is able to scan your internet connection.
Use Open Source
Software developed by corporations such as Microsoft and Apple is proprietary, meaning that only they know what’s really going on within the system. They may claim that you can opt-out of certain data collection, but you have no way of verifying that claim.
Open-source software is software where the programming code is freely available for anyone to look through for malicious code. Even if you don’t possess the skills to look through the code yourself, you can feel relatively certain that someone else has done so. Just the transparency of open source means there is much less incentive to add bad code to a piece of software.
Since your operating system (OS) manages all your other software, this is also where you are the most vulnerable. Switching to an open-source OS will greatly limit your risk of being tracked. Which, in practice, usually means switching to Linux.
Linux used to be mostly for professionals and enthusiasts, but these days it’s a lot easier for ordinary users to wrap their heads around. There is a bit of a learning curve, but mostly it’s a matter of getting used to it.
Generally, consider looking for open source alternatives for as much as possible of the software you use. Alternativeto.net is a great source for finding these alternatives.
Search engines are also software, and some of these will track your behavior all around the internet. Consider using duck.com, swisscows.com, and other search engines with an explicit policy of not storing any of your data. But also remember that whatever their stated policy is, there is no way to verify it.
Hide your IP. Use TOR, and no “free” services
A VPN will hide your true IP address and prevent your ISP from knowing (and logging) which websites you visit. They will only see a lot of (mostly encrypted) data going between you and your VPN.
A VPN service can be very useful, but how do you know that they don’t log your behavior on the internet? If you really want to guarantee privacy, you can set up your own VPN using this great guide. It’s not easy if you are not technically minded, but by running your own VPN, you know for sure that your internet use is not being logged.
But remember, part of not being tracked is to decentralize your data use and confuse any person or computer that may be collecting your data, so don’t rely on the same VPN constantly. Use other VPNs from time to time and even your own IP address. If your internet subscription has dynamic IP (most of them do), turn off your router when you don’t use it. This way, your IP address will change from time to time.
Mysterium VPN is also a great complimentary VPS service that can be used from time to time to cause a little confusion. With Mysterium, you can switch between a large selection of IP-addresses, and you can even pay in cryptocurrency. It’s not always the most stable connection, and I wouldn’t rely on it for daily use, though.
Remember, A VPN does not hide your IP; it only switches it with another one not directly in your name.
If you really want to be anonymous, you can use Tor. Tor is a network consisting of thousands of relays that conceals your location and makes it very hard for even authorities to track you. Tor has its own dedicated web browser but can also be accessed via the Brave Browser. Brave is a privacy-oriented browser for phones and desktops that blocks web trackers, cookies, and browser fingerprinting.
Use throwaway emails
Preferably you don’t want to use emails at all. Email is usually not end-to-end encrypted, and often the recipient can see your IP. This is a security vulnerability.
But perhaps even more importantly: your email address is unique. That means anyone who has your email address can always identify you if they have another data source also containing your email address.
Therefore, use throwaway email accounts if you need to provide your contact information to someone or for any sort of verification. When you no longer need that email, you can delete your account or simply leave it.
Never use email for any confidential or identifiable communication. Either use direct (non-digital) communication or open-source software that is end-to-end encrypted, such as Signal, Telegram, or Jitsi.
Change Passwords and Have a System
Never use the same password in more than one system. If that system gets compromised, you don’t want that password to access everything you do online.
It can be difficult to remember multiple passwords, but if you have a system, it will be easier to manage:
Make up a non-existent pronounceable word that can be memorized, such as ‘swolfano’ (that I just made up). Then switch a few numbers into similar-looking numbers and symbols. Like Sw0lf/-\n0. This is your base password. It’s hard to crack but not hard to remember once you get used to it.
Then make variations that only make sense to you for each password-protected account, such as Sw1lf/-\n1 for your e-mail, Sw2lf/-\n2 for your bank, Sw3lf/-\n3 for your Bitcoin wallet, etc.
Don’t Post Pictures Online
Don’t post your picture online, and don’t use your own name or other identifiable characteristics online or on phone calls. Use multiple fake names (where legal) and switch between genders. Only use made-up identities as identity theft is a) wrong and b) Illegal.
Use a Safe(r) Phone
Modern smartphones gather information about your every second. Even when you sleep:
If you want to avoid this constant data collection, you have three options:
- Don’t use a phone.
- Use a so-called dumbphone, i.e., an old school phone with few sensors and limited capabilities for recording and transmitting information about you.
- Use a version of Android that is free of tracking software, such as LineageOS. Linux phones, such as the Librem 5, are also getting more and more popular.
Even a Linux phone will reveal your location to your phone company through triangulation via cell towers. So If you do keep a phone, try to take it with you only when needed. And consider using a walkie-talkie most of the time to avoid mass-surveillance.
Use Cash and Cryptocurrency
Every transaction you make through your bank or credit card is easily traceable. Not only by the government but also potentially by anyone who works in your bank or payment processor.
Instead, use cash whenever you can. Cash is difficult to trace and easy to use. If a business refuses to take your cash, go elsewhere.
Cryptocurrency is still somewhat uncommon, but more and more businesses and individuals accept Bitcoin and Etherium. Just remember, that the popular cryptocurrencies are easily traceable, so you will need to keep your wallet address a secret. You can also anonymize your crypto through services such as incognito.org
Don’t Sign up for Stuff
Those membership cards may save you a bit of cash or provide some other services, but it’s not worth it if you want to stay under the radar.
There are tree reasons why businesses offer membership deals:
- They want you to come back and buy more
- They want your email, so they can push more products
- They want to track your shopping habits, possibly combining that data with other databases
Is that worth a 5% discount on chili sauce?
Talking about your life, your thoughts, or other people may be remembered or recorded. This information can be used in combination with other information to find out more about you than you willingly gave up.
Don’t Get Arrested
It goes without saying that getting arrested for any crime (small or big) will get you very much on the radar. Your picture will be taken, your fingerprint registered, and reports will be written. Even a speeding ticket will add you to systems that may get you profiled in the future.
Even if you never break any laws, there is no guarantee you won’t be detained on suspicion or interviewed as a witness.
So if you want to stay below the radar, don’t commit even minor crimes, and don’t be around people who may. Avoid any potential trouble, and try not to draw attention to yourself.
Live off-grid and provide your own utilities.
Water and electricity meters track your use so you can get billed, and modern meters are able to track your usage by the hour and sometimes even real-time. That data can be combined with other data about you as well as other statistical and generate a much more detailed profile than just your utility usage.
By living off-grid, only you know how much water, heat, and electricity you use. Not only that, but depending on where you live, your local utility companies may not even know of your existence.
Use a PO box
Although shopping locally and face-to-face with people you know personally will keep you under the radar, you may occasionally want (or need) to order a few things online.
A small PO box will cost less than $5 per month and hide your home address from online shops and any other business or persons who want to send you a letter.
Don’t Own Your Home or Take on Debt
Ideally, you should not own real estate or any other property registered in your name, especially if you need to take out a mortgage. Mortgages and other loans will add your name to multiple databases of banks, insurance companies, and credit rating agencies.
Renting your home will allow you to live more anonymous, although this can conflict with the upsides of living off-grid. It can also jeopardize your long-terms plans as you may have to move if your landlord decides to sell or use the property for other purposes.
You will have to weigh the benefits of owning your home vs. the anonymity of renting. If you decide to rent, look for a landlord that does not check your credit score.
Make sure to look like any other guy or girl by blending in with the surrounding society. If people wear suits, do that, and if people wear camo, do the same.
Avoid unusual hair color, jewelry, or other things that give you an identity as it will not only be noticed at the moment; you will also be easier to remember and describe in the future: “Who was that guy with the army pants and the very long beard?“
Also, don’t behave in a way that will attract attention. Don’t get into heated political discussions, skip queues, or be loud. But also don’t go out of your way to help others as that will also attract attention. You don’t want enemies, but you also don’t want more than a few trusted friends.
That being said, don’t be paranoid, either. Most of us are too focused on our own lives and worries to notice or remember even quite outlandish looks and behaviors in other people.
Wear a Hat
Wearing a suitable cap or a hat will allow you to hide somewhat from surveillance cameras without attracting suspicion. If you know where the cameras are, just look down a bit while entering the area. Pretend to look at your phone.
You can also add infrared LED’s that will counter facial recognition software, but be aware that although infrared light is not visible to the human eye, it might raise attention in an IT system or the people who operate the cameras.
You can’t live entirely anonymous in a society where your name and birth are already registered. But you can do a lot to not be noticed or tracked.
What you can do, however, is knowing when you do identify yourself. Most people have no idea how often and when they are identified online as well as in real life.
Perhaps you need a bank account. As long as you are aware that this will identify you, you can limit tracking by making only specific transactions to and from that account. So you use the account only for the purposes that required you to get a bank account and make all other transactions in cash or cryptocurrency.
Or perhaps you need to have a social media account to keep in contact with friends and family. That doesn’t mean you have to upload a profile picture or keep the app on your phone.
Also read: How to Leave Society and Live in the Woods