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article imageYes, there are some who say 'privacy' is possible, just disappear Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Jan 7, 2014 in Technology
New York - In this age of digital technology and ever-expanding data capacities, is there any real privacy any more? People often wonder. According to Frank M. Ahearn who describes himself as a Business Stratagem, he believes yes, a person can, "disappear."
Ahearn has written a book and offers consulting on escaping the digital entrapments now so all encompassing in our high tech society. He refers to what he does as a "Disappear Service and Digital Manipulation Service" which he sees is rather unique and abstract. "When issues arise in life or in business I am the person to contact," says Ahearn.
His third book on the subject of erasing or perhaps escaping one's digital footprints is now out. It is called How To Disappear From Big Brother: The 21st Century Guide to Creating Privacy and Freedom.
This reporter had heard of Ahearn some time ago and made attempts to contact him. When press releases announced this latest book, Ahearn was available to comment and answered some of my questions.
Very obvious and first question being, what inspired you to write this and your other book,s on "How to disappear?"
"Edward Snowden!" Ahearn then went on to explain further, "How to Disappear From Big Brother seems appropriate and quite timely considering what is happening with government," he said. "I find the NSA spying extremely disturbing and a serious violation of our human rights. I feel, he said, like I am at war for my personal privacy, so a guide book seems in order."
I then asked him, are you a private person and dislike the way technology has in some instances "invaded" people's lives? Is that what inspired you? is that the (inner) voice you describe on your web site when you talk about what you do? Or is it more than that?
"I am private when it comes to where I live," said Ahearn. "I never like the idea that anyone could access my physical location (via GPS or Google or any other means) so I keep that close to the vest."
"Also, he said, I do not think government is all right or should be all powerful. We the people should have some options and that is what I want to provide. It’s beginning to feel like East Berlin;" (during the Cold War era).
In this age of digital technology and computer systems is it really possible to "disappear?"
"Yes and no," said Ahearn. "To me, disappearing is becoming a virtual entity, it’s physical and it’s a mindset." "I call it being 'a Virtual Zentity' where you are not connected to anything physical. Such as phone bill, lease, banking, and anything else one needs to subscribe to."
He pointed out, "you will always leave a trail so embrace the idea of controlling and choosing the trails you leave behind." "For example, he added, you could go into a store and buy a prepaid cell phone but the purchase is how you are traced, transaction and cameras. You can control this footprint by paying another person to go in and buy the phone for you." It is their face on the camera," he said. "This is the idea of using a third party." "A large part of my new book is about utilizing third parties and third party services."
Intrigued, I asked further...Other than situations of "witness protection" or criminal cases, how would "disappearing" benefit a person?
"Some people find themselves in terrible situations like an abusive ex’s or bad business situations and need to disappear," Ahearn said. "Some people seriously fear the government intrusion and live 'off the grid.'"
So, pushing his line of thought further, I said, In other words, in such a heavily technologically driven society, how could "disappearing" or "going off the grid" as you say truly benefit an average ordinary person? How is that really possible? Everything today is technologically driven.
"Picking and choosing where you will leave a trace," said Ahearn. "This is a little long but the best example I can use." Ahearn then explained a bit further.
"Imagine it’s a Friday night, he said. And, you are at the school dance and you make the mistake of asking the bully’s significant other to dance. The bully finds out and you are dead meat." "The next few days the bully tries hunting you down but you avoided capture." And, he said, "as the saying goes you cannot run forever."
"The following week, Ahearn continued, you are delivering pizza and as you pull up to the house that ordered the pie you discover it is the home of the bully." "Ringing the bell leads to the losing of teeth and not delivering the pizza results in teenage unemployment," he said.
So he explained a bit more, "the question is how does the teen go about delivering the pizza without getting beat up?" "Ideally, said Ahearn, it would be best to get another delivery person to deliver the pie, however, the teen cannot go back to the pizza shop and ask another delivery person."
So, according to Ahearn, "the answer is quite simple," he said. "The teen rolls up to the schoolyard and convinces another teen to deliver the pizza for the tip money." "The bully gets the pizza, the pizza shop gets the money, the schoolyard teen gets the tip and the teen keep his teeth." "The resolution is the act of being a "Virtual Zentity" which is removing one’s self from danger or capture," Ahearn said.
"This simple analogy is exactly what people who disappear deal with each moment of their day." "Think about the society we live in, he said, the digital surveillance, the cell phone surveillance and the camera surveillance in public and private places." "We typically assume only big brother has access to these databases, however, he pointed out, that is untrue." "A private investigator with a good source or a skip trace with a good pretext can access the private information." This is scary and it is a fact that Ahearn really wants people to realize and think about.
"People who disappear tend to rush into or not think through the process of disappearing," said Ahearn. "And, such is the their downfall," he said. "Disappearing is more than going from point A to point B." "It is about evolving into the 'Cool Hand Luke' so to speak, of disappearing, he said. "But also, added Ahearn, embracing a mindset and philosophy, (more than just being a cool character like the one from that Paul Newman movie) hence the name ZEN-ENTITY.
In the pizza delivery example, said Ahearn, "ringing the bully’s doorbell would create a connection between the teen and bully." By contrast noted Ahearn, "in the world of disappearing, the doorbell represents anything and everything digital." "The minute you press a button, be it 'send,' 'enter or download,' you have created a connection that can be traced." "The new philosophy I proffer, he said, is to remove yourself from the trail or at the very least consciously control the footprints you leave behind on the digital trail."
Then I asked, what are some of the harmful things you see in technology today that prompted you to write the book?
"When I email my mother, said Ahearn, The National Security Agency 'knows' I sent an email." When I text my brothers the NSA 'knows' I sent the text." "When I pay my cell phone bill, he said, I know that the cell phone carrier sells my phone records to the government."
Ahearn clarified, "I am not a conspiracy buff," he said. "But it seems like we live in the 'United States of Fearica!' The goal of my new book is to learn how to live around technology and not be traced in everyday actions." "Or at the very least, he said, reduce your digital trails."
Based upon your experience, what are some of the difficult obstacles that must be addressed before "disapearing."
Taking some time with the question, he responded. "How a person earns a living is problematic." "You can’t be Joe the bus driver in Chicago disappear and be Joe the bus driver in Arizona." "A job also leads to paying taxes which is a huge digital footprint, said Ahearn, very un-zen! "But one must do."
And, lastly, even if someone does not want to disappear entirely, what are some of the basic steps a person can take to safeguard themselves against ID theft, over-exposure on the web, or any other type of situation that could make a person more vulnerable than they need to be in this digital/high tech age?
Ahearn was very frank and direct as he said, all companies want your information." "The most important thing is not giving it away." "Today the phone, electric and even cable company want your contact number, email, and even the phone number of where you work, in case of emergency." "Does Time Warner really need my contact number?" Ahearn again was very blunt as he said, "If asked for information deviate the information or lie." Yet he pointed out, something quite unsettling, which perhaps many people know already all too well. "The worst part is, he said, they will never delete that information."
And, what is even a bit more frightening as this reporter observed is that with the advent of social networks the collecting and dispersing of information gets even more complicated and wide-spread. For just recently, The Wall Street Journal reported about the dangers and "the dark side" of social media.
"Social networking is my big pet peeve," said Ahearn. "It is one thing if you are spreading the word of your business, new article published or appearing in Vegas." He advises discernment, people beware. "Using it for personal information like swearing you love your new woman, or posting a photo of your new tramp stamp tattoo." That type of thing can haunt you. "In the future your kids will see it," he said. "This is the first time in society where we will know the sins of our parents," he said.
One recent example came to mind of the banker/investor who faked his own suicide. So, I asked Ahearn, what do you think of the situation with that banker who "disappeared" but was caught recently, allegedly over some marijuana he was growing.
"A super dumb-ass!" "I do not understand why these white collar criminals steal and stay in the United States," he said. "It’s like robbing a liquor store and not driving away in your getaway car." "Most of them wait until the Feds come knocking on their door". "If you are stealing millions, said Ahearn, do it right, and have an exit plan and then 'get out of Dodge!'"
Which then leads back to some very simple pre-cautions for all of us law-abiding, everyday ordinary people to keep in mind.
"Increase your security intelligence," said Robert Siciliano, an ID Theft and Online Security expert. Like Ahearn, he too has written books on the ever-growing dangers of our high tech and digitally enhanced society. Providing seminars and talks on digital security and personal information protection, he noted, "take classes to get digitally savvy." And (simply) learn the ins and outs, said Siciliano, of all the devices you use and websites you visit."
To learn more about Frank M. Ahearn, his work and his books visit his web site.
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