The Fantasy of Opting Out

Those who know about us have power over us. Obfuscation may be our best digital weapon.

Please read before down-voting ;)


As much as I am a big advocate for privacy. and sometimes go to such big lengths to preserve my privacy. I have come to the conclusion that this is for one a personal struggle (maybe a shared one) but not societal struggle. and for two there will come a time when all my resistance will be rendered futile.
The first argument is the feeling that I am the only one who is concerned about the state of surveillance we are living under and every one else around is comfortable giving up privacy for the sake of gaining security.
I might have a gloomy vision about the future and a very rigid construct about why privacy is a take it all or lose it all kind of struggle. I.e Just remember when surveillance cameras where only allowed in the premises of banks and government institutions, then inside malls and outside businesses with a licenses, the in every crossroad, and on peoples front doors, and then those cameras were internet connected and received AI enhancement, and Amazon started interconnecting those ring devices, and they are becoming so tiny an cheap that a couple could be planted in your hotel room and you will never be able to dig them out. people would have shrugged the thought that one day those cameras will be part of a bigger surveillance network but it is happening with our collective consent and laziness and fear. When concede a little we end up loosing it all.
We did nothing to halt this technology at its inception. and we are still failing to regulate other technologies under development. I can only keep my individual fight until the day I become too ignorant or too tired. although I am sure my losses are bigger than my gains.


When I just read the title and description, I got the impression that this article considered using privacy-respecting practices / apps impractical - maybe thats why OP said to read first.

This article actually encourages digital privacy measures and instead critiques more drastic actions, like not living in cities to minimize exposure to cameras.

I think that most people dont have this fantasy or care for it, although they tend not to care much about digital privacy either. I’m not quite sure who the intended audience is for this article, if most people don’t need persuasion on half of its argument. Then again, I skimmed it so I may have missed some key points.


It’s an excerpt from a 2015 book. The main point is that privacy advocates should realize that just opting out is falling short of reaching its goals and at times can be even counter-productive. On the other hand there are the tools of obfuscation which are probably under-explored by privacy advocates.


That was a long read but I found the end (quoted below) quite enjoyable as the subject of privacy seems to devolve into absolutes in various online forums.

There is no simple solution to the problem of privacy, because privacy itself is a solution to societal challenges that are in constant flux. Some are natural and beyond our control; others are technological and should be within our control but are shaped by a panoply of complex social and material forces with indeterminate effects. Privacy does not mean stopping the flow of data; it means channeling it wisely and justly to serve societal ends and values and the individuals who are its subjects, particularly the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.


This last bit,

Privacy does not mean stopping the flow of data; it means channeling it wisely and justly to serve societal ends and values and the individuals who are its subjects, particularly the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.

Sounds like a message for companies / developers to use privacy to help society, especially those who need a high level of privacy. Activists, politicians, investigative journalists, etc. Perhaps “justice” suggests that services can be mostly privacy-respecting, but leak some data if law enforcement requests it for a case. My interpretation again leaves me confused about the intended audience of this article.

Though, this part

Privacy does not mean stopping the flow of data; it means channeling it wisely

resonates with me a little. There are some areas where i need to let my data flow and sacrifice privacy, like SMS. In others, I prefer to stop the flow as much as I can.


I think it is important to note that this was written in 2015 (during the big-data hype). Back then the companies and governments had not yet fully shifted their line of argument to lawful access etc.

Never the less the article still has the point that an individual acting on stopping “the flow as much as I can” is falling way short of actually reaching any sort of meaningful privacy on the societal level and in fact also not for the individual as it leaves a moving dark spot in the surveillance fabric that can be tracked nearly as well.


“As much as I can” in digital ways, like de-Googling my phone, using privacy-respecting apps, and using Tor. As I said, I don’t apply that approach to my whole life.

A place to discuss privacy and freedom in the digital world.

Privacy has become a very important issue in modern society, with companies and governments constantly abusing their power, more and more people are waking up to the importance of digital privacy.

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