The answer is so simple that you probably won’t believe it.
How do the world’s most powerful, wealthy and well connected people keep their lives more private than the average American?
Former President Jimmy Carter recently revealed one of two truly non-secret tactics that get completely overlooked because of their simplicity: snail mail. When asked about NSA surveillance by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Carter responded:
“As a matter of fact, you know, I have felt that my own communications were probably monitored, and when I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately, I type or write the letter myself, put it in the post office and mail it,” Carter said.
Carter’s practice is a clear reminder in the information age: if your communication is digitized, it’s being tracked. We know that thanks to Edward Snowden. Maybe it’s not being tapped by the government, maybe not by a competitor or criminal, but by someone who has something to gain from it, commercially or otherwise. Computers can sort through billions of phone records, emails, Facebook posts, search terms and the likes in a matter of seconds. Intercepting a letter the old-fashioned way? Too time intensive.
So what is the second non-secret that is coming back into vogue? It’s a currency that never reveals behavioral shopping patterns to large marketing firms, can’t be tracked via geo-location software and doesn’t leave digital residue all over the internet. You’ve already guessed the answer: Cash.
If you don’t want your insurance company to purchase your credit card records of McDonald’s purchases (high risk for heart attack), use cash. If you don’t want your credit card number stored in Target’s database, use cash. Nervous about the fact that your bank account number appears on the bottom of every one of your checks (and can fairly easily be cased out with the right tools)? Cash, cash, cash.
I consult on privacy to some of the wealthiest, most powerful people on the planet. Last year, I met in Washington DC with a staff member of a future presidential candidate. What tools would I immediately implement in their campaign when it came to sensitive communications, she asked? With a nod to Jimmy Carter, here were my suggestions: snail mail, face-to-face meetings, faxing, private chat/text software, data encryption, smash the iPhones/Androids and two-factor authentication for email, Dropbox and all other web accounts.
As for cash? Not feasible in a game where everything has to be tracked and cash has a reputation for bribery and evasion. But for you, cash is an old-fashioned gem with state-of-the-art privacy.
John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.