The Road to Invisible

Begin here.

  • The path to privacy is a long one. You start by reading The Privacy Rights Handbook, by Beth Givens (Avon, 1997) and monitoring privacy news (www.accessreports.com).
  • Stop direct mail by sending your name and address (all versions) to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.
  • Refuse to fill out warranty cards. (Warranties remain in force.) Patronize card-free supermarkets (www.nocards.org). When you buy by phone, say: “Do not rent, sell, or trade my name and address.”
  • OOPS. You called an 800 number. The Automatic Number Identification System tags you for direct marketers.
  • Stop the telemarketers: Send name, address, and phone number to Telephone Preference Service, DMA, Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014.
  • If someone calls anyway, say: “Under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, I want to be on your ‘do not call’ list.” To stop pre-approved credit card marketers: 888/5OPTOUT.
  • Too much work? For $20 annually, Private Citizen will contact marketers on your behalf (www.private-citizen.com).
  • OOPS. Your Social Security Number is printed on your checks. Someone could steal your identity. Better check your records: 800/772-1213 (www.ssa.gov).
  • Tired of this yet? Start over: Get married and change your name. Watch out for the license; it will get you on more lists. So will the passport you need for that overseas honeymoon.
  • Visit a privacy-friendly country. Watch out: Austria’s Freedom Party wants to issue foreigners an “Austria-Card” with photo, fingerprints, personal info. More info online at www.privacyinternational.org.
  • Back home, you buy a new house. You fill out a permanent–instead of temporary–change of address card to let everyone know.
  • OOPS. The U.S. Postal Service makes big bucks by selling names. To exit the National Change of Address System, call the National Customer Support Center, 800/238-3150.
  • Buying a new car? Check your credit record: Trans Union (www.transunion.com). Repeat every 3 years. Or every year if you find a mistake.
  • Applying for a new job? You could be rejected based on medical history. Verify your records: Medical Information Bureau (www.mib.com). Repeat in 3 years.
  • Want to keep certain medical procedures out of your records? Pay cash. Tell your doctor not to share your records without your permission.
  • The average person is on 200 databases; PrivacyScan charges $29 to search 1,600 for info about you. Also download a form to check your FBI file (www.privacyscan.com).
  • Only visit websites with 4-star (“contact with permission”) TRUSTe ratings. Avoid 1-star sites (“share without permission”). Check ratings (www.truste.org).
  • Still nervous? Download PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption freeware for secure message and info exchange. [MIT no longer distributes PGP —Eds.] Or communicate by shortwave radio or message drops.
  • OOPS. You can’t resist the online sweepstakes. You go to www.iwon.com, where clicking creates entries. You win $10 million. You’re in the spotlight now.
  • Your only hope now is a new identity. You’re rich: surgically transform yourself into Rock Hudson. Find out how in the cult film Seconds (1966). Just don’t let Oprah know.
  • Not in a surgery mood? “Borrow” a Social Security Number: Maria von Trapp (009-32-2317) or Liberace (472-14-4916). Avoid stealing one from an accident victim–too many people do it.
  • Or maybe a new birth certificate is easier. Trent Sands’ Reborn in the U.S.A.: Personal Privacy through A New Identity (Loompanics, 1998) tells you how to forge one.
  • OOPS. You tried it in Virginia, the toughest state for such shenanigans. You get arrested. Even if proven innocent, your prints, mug, and vital stats stay on file with the police, state, and FBI.
  • Must be time to read Hide Your A$$et$ and Disappear: A Step-by-Step Guide to Vanishing Without a Trace by Edmund J. Pankau (HarperCollins, 1999).
  • Or try I Am Not A Number! Freeing America from the ID State (Loompanics, 1998): Claire Wolfe says you can buy citizenship in privacy-friendly EnenKio Atoll for $75/ person.
  • Tired of being alone on the privacy road? Rat on a mob boss and join the Witness Protection Program.
  • Or take a tip from Diogenes, an ancient dropout who lived in a bathtub and spent his days searching with a lantern for an honest face: The quickest road to invisible is to get rid of everything anyone else would want.
  • O.K., you’re totally anonymous now. You’ve lost your friends, health insurance, citizenship, and maybe your identity. Wouldn’t it be better to campaign for a Constitutional privacy amendment?
  • You mean, take part in the political process? Go back to square one!
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