If codes and steganography (the art of hiding a message) weren't enough for you the first time, here are three more ways to thwart the NSA's multi-billion dollar surveillance machine.
1. Aluminum Foil
Tinfoil and conspiracy theorists have a long, tense history together. Mel Gibson had a tinfoil-lined apartment in "Conspiracy Theory", and a Google search for "tinfoil hat" turns up comments ridiculing the people who talked about the NSA reading everyone's email before it became common knowledge.
Your personal tracking device, that you generally regard as your cellphone, is creating a real-time map of your whereabouts at all times, and sharing it wirelessly with just about anyone that cares to look. Some suspect that going into Airplane mode or even turning it off isn't enough. Wrapping your phone in tinfoil, however, is.
What? Tinfoil can stymie the largest spy organization in the world? Yes, and here's how.
Electromagnetic waves can go around and through just about anything, which is why cell phones work inside houses, up trees and over mountains. However, electromagnetic waves can be shielded with the use of a sealed, conductive box, which in this case is formed by a piece of aluminum foil. Boxes created for this purpose are called Faraday Cages. Organizations that depend on high security (like the NSA) will make entire rooms into Faraday Cages by lining them with copper mesh, thus keeping people from wirelessly communicating with the outside world.
So, if you discover that you're starring in your very own version of Minority Report, and you need to disappear, but you still need your phone, a sheet of aluminum foil will do dandily. If you have an iPhone or any other phone with exposed metal components/antenna, you must first put the phone in an equally high-tech plastic sandwich bag. Otherwise the tinfoil becomes a bigger antenna, defeating the purpose.
Too much trouble wrapping and unwrapping? Try a Christmas cookie tin. They work just as well.
The general lesson here is that Faraday Cages, which are nothing more than metal boxes, can, if properly installed, totally block wireless signals. The applications here are far-reaching; from wireless smart-meters to Bluetooth, a Faraday cage can render useless all manner of sophisticated surveillance equipment.
In a totally unscientific poll conducted on dailypaul.com, it was determined that a healthy contingent of people already put tape over the built-in webcams on their computers. After Miss Teen USA had her webcam hijacked by a hacker, it should be clear that just about anyone can be checking you out at any time. Admittedly, most people probably don't care to spy on me while I undress, but the fact remains I'd prefer the All-Seeing-Eye didn't extend into my bedroom.
Sure, you can "turn-off" your camera, or unload the drivers from your computer, but really, the NSA is in on this at the most basic level, going so far as to build backdoors into computer chips and software. Some hacker, somewhere, can overcome just about any digital security you can come up with. So if digital doesn't work, you just need to plug what is called "the analog hole" and bust out the tape. The analog hole refers to the vulnerable point where digital equipment interfaces with the real world, in this case it is a camera lens. The entire back end of the spy system doesn't work if the camera can't see squat, or the microphone can't hear, no matter how good the back end might be.
Yes, digital security is important, and if your system is compromised, that is a problem in its own right. But digital security is just that; it's digital, and it's accessible via computer, and for the most part already compromised by someone, somewhere. Ultimately, Miss Teen USA could have saved herself the experience of a creepy dude emailing her naked pictures of herself with a half-cent's worth of tape. Isn't that all you really need to hear?
3. The Real World
The hope of the NSA is that everything can be tracked and detected from the comfort of a massive computerized datacenter and that all the answers they want will just spill out of this global dragnet. However, the biggest analog hole is the real world itself, and digital spying is only as good as its sensors and the information they send back. Ultimately the spies are separated from their subjects by thousands of miles, and this is how a shred of painter's tape can bring the whole system to its knees. But, the concept doesn't end with putting tape over a camera. There are all kinds of scanners and sensors being employed, from fingerprints and retinal scans to gait and voice recognition, and beyond.
Fingerprints? Wear gloves.
Retinal Scans? Reflective Aviators.
Are they using voice recognition? Pass notes.
Are they using facial recognition? Wear a hat and sunglasses. Or a Guy Fawkes mask.
These Spanish dudes just said, "Screw the hell out of facial recognition software and secret spy cameras!" They just plugged the analog hole and called it done. Is it a little creepy? Yes. Does it defeat billions of dollars worth of people and hardware with a 99 cent plastic mask? Hell yes.