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February 01, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

They know who you are and they've seen what you've done.

They know where you are, where you've been, what you eat, what you wear, your taste in music, who you talk to, what you like to do in public and what you like to do in secret.

All this technology that you have been so ga-ga about? Bottom line, it means you have more traces on you than Chemical Ali.

The Washington Post conducted a one-day shadowing of an Average American earlier this month and concluded that "ordinary Americans leave a trail of digital data that is being gathered, stored and analyzed, and that these people seldom realize it."

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Phones track you by satellite, security cameras are everywhere and every keystroke of the computer is cataloged - even a call to a local pizza delivery joint might go into a database. And if the government or a divorce lawyer wants any of these records, they're all just a subpoena away.

Privacy is dead.

Unless you fight back. And in my view, it's high time we did. It might be too hard to give up the technology we've all gotten used to - but that doesn't mean we have to make it easy for the snoops.

As always, I'm here to help, with some simple tips:

1.) Buy a spare cell phone and bury it outside of a church.

You're all the time seeing those two-for-one cell phone offers, so this shouldn't cost much more than the price of a second line.

Due to the wonders of GPS, "they" always know where you are, right? Wrong. "They" always know where your cell phone is. So if you have two, this can prove problematic for authorities.

You have a cell buried near the church and call it every so often so it plugs into the local tower, and who's to say you're not kneeling at the altar? True, your other cell phone might show you to be at the Luster's Motel at the same time, but who's to say which one is correct?

It's all about planting doubt in the mind of the jury.

2.) Apply "equal and opposite reaction" motion theory to your Web searches.

Every time you Google an item, think of what the opposite of that item would be and Google that, too. Prove yourself to be too nebulous a subject to be accurately profiled. Do back-to-back searches for John Wesley and John Holmes; Soldier of Fortune and Save the Children; al-Qaida and alpacas; Green Beret and Greenpeace.

The goal is to destroy any particular pattern that might be picked up on by government software. If you counterbalance all your searches with equal-and-opposite searches, your electronic scales will not be tipped in any one particular direction.

You may wish to change up the process by simply searching for two unrelated terms. This can be entertaining as well. For example, a search for "false trousers" turned up a Web site that pointed out a sign in a Bangkok dry cleaner that says "Drop trousers here for best results."

3.) Learn to walk backward.

A crude way to defeat video camera surveillance, I grant you, but it's the only way (unless you're comfortable going the ski mask route). Yes, the bank teller might freak a bit the first couple of times you walk backward up to her window and hand your deposit to her over your shoulder, but she will, in time, get used to it.

4.) Swap credit cards with a hooker.

A trustworthy hooker, obviously, one you feel comfortable settling up with at the end of the month. Since her spending habits and geographical profile will be Very Different from yours - one would hope - advertising snoops seeking to profile your consumer behavior in a tidy little package will be destroyed.

5.) For a week, allow your supermarket bonus card to be used by a member of a league bowling team.

Same idea as No. 4, really.

6.) Cut the bar codes off of a few sacks of flour and paste them over top of every bar code you use, whether it's for gym access or office supply purchases. This way, the only thing the government will know is that at 7:30 a.m., the gym was paid a visit by a Mr. Pillsbury.

Dishonest? Perhaps. But hey, they started it. So it's good to have someone like me in your corner who doesn't have much to do all day but sit around and think up ways to fight back.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com

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