There is only one answer to this question: yes, of course you are being watched. If you manage to live your life away from closed circuit cameras, satellite imaging, credit card, internet, passport and any other trail which is used to keep tabs on people, the chances are that someone is looking for you.
Privacy in the 21st Century has come to be almost synonymous with high levels of secrecy. While many decades ago it was possible for Nazi war criminals to ‘disappear’ from Europe to South America to live out the rest of their lives, even with the threat of being hunted down by one of the world’s best intelligence agencies (Israel’s Mossad). As Osama Bin Laden found out, these days, even having the protection of various states, armies, sympathizers around the world, billions of dollars, underground bunkers and the like, is not enough to keep you hidden – if the powers that be really want to find you.
Most people, of course, are not Osama Bin Laden, nor are they Nazi war criminals. It is partly this fact that makes people anxious as to the reasons why their lives are monitored with such scrutiny. When they wake up in the morning and check their weather app on their phone, pay for breakfast with their credit card, stop to use the WiFi to send an email, make a telephone call, use a travel card or a parking meter – their movements and activities are being recorded. You are reading this now, and that fact is probably being recorded. Until the end of time, there will be a record of you reading this. When you get in your car, you’ll be filmed. When you walk on the street or into a store, you’ll be filmed. There may be nobody looking at those images right now, but a facial recognition search would soon locate you.
So, what options do you have if you’d prefer not to be followed and have the inane details of your life meticulously recorded for posterity? The solution actually involves effort, which can be a major nuisance – you’ll obviously be captured on CCTV and so on, but you can minimize the amount you are followed. You may be identified by your clothes and your build, but facial recognition technology will struggle if you have a scarf over your mouth, sunglasses, a baseball cap etc. Wearing all three, however, will draw attention to you. Don’t drive a car – take taxis, cycle, use public transport. Use cash instead of cards.
Transfer savings into gold, precious metals, bitcoin. Use a laptop and smartphone in a boring, innocuous way – while anything you want to hide should be done completely offline. If that is impossible, use an old smartphone, with an encrypted browser, VPN and public wireless to do your business, without mention of your email addresses, real name, etc. Turn off the GPS and be prepared to switch phones regularly. If you need to make phone calls, use a pay-as-you-go SIM card and an old phone that can be thrown away immediately. When disposing of such items, avoid placing them in obvious places to search, such as trash cans.
Corporate and personal espionage is now very accessible and common, despite it being of dubious legality in many jurisdictions. Bosses routinely spy on their employees, husbands on wives, schools on students and vice-versa. Traditional investigative techniques are still alive and kicking, too – people really do get followed by men in sunglasses down dark alleys at night. Agents working for the state or corporations are not easily intimidated and may not back off when confronted. Your best defense against this is counter surveillance.
If you have an idea of who is trying to gather information on you, you can also retaliate in kind. You don’t need to be an expert to fit out a room with microphones – you may even be able to do this with items from somewhere like Microphone Geeks. If you are not a technological whizz, it just takes a quick internet search to find someone who is willing to hack another person’s hard drive, webcam and so on. You can wear glasses fitted with an almost unnoticeable camera in the hinge. If knowledge is power, then the more you know about such people, the better.