Obfuscation as a Privacy Tool
This essay discusses the futility of opting out of surveillance, and suggests data obfuscation as an alternative.
We can apply obfuscation in our own lives by using practices and technologies that make use of it, including:
- The secure browser Tor, which (among other anti-surveillance technologies) muddles our Internet activity with that of other Tor users, concealing our trail in that of many others.
- The browser plugins TrackMeNot and AdNauseam, which explore obfuscation techniques by issuing many fake search requests and loading and clicking every ad, respectively.
- The browser extension Go Rando, which randomly chooses your emotional “reactions” on Facebook, interfering with their emotional profiling and analysis.
- Playful experiments like Adam Harvey’s “HyperFace” project, finding patterns on textiles that fool facial recognition systems not by hiding your face, but by creating the illusion of many faces.
I am generally skeptical about obfuscation tools. I think of this basically as a signal-to-noise problem, and that adding random noise doesn’t do much to obfuscate the signal. But against broad systems of financially motivated corporate surveillance, it might be enough.