Invisibility: Increasing OPSEC – Part 1, by St. Funogas

I recently read an article on advances which have been made using ear recognition as one more way to track us and violate our privacy. Since facial recognition systems are sometimes inadequate due to factors such as faces hidden by hair or covid masks, additional recognition technology using our ears is being developed. I don’t need to mention all the other ways modern technology is being used to violate our privacy or that our rights are being eroded by the day.

The article brought to mind a book I read while looking for a place to set up my homestead: How to Be Invisible by J.J. Luna. I used it extensively before and after getting established in a new life and found it to be valuable and informative. Not only did it outline what steps to take but also showed the various ways to accomplish them. While technology, cultural changes, and increasingly oppressive laws have made some of the ideas in the book obsolete, the concepts are still good and the majority of the information is still valid and doable. There are many similar books available.

While only a book can cover all the facets and adequate details of how to protect our privacy to the max, I offer here some of the things I’ve personally done.

For the very OPSEC reasons I’m about to discuss, I have to be a little hazy on the details of some of my experiences. The best ones I can’t even discuss but many of you will figure those out on your own if you decide to journey down the OPSEC road less traveled. I’m sorry to report that during the last day of editing the better part of wisdom dictated that some paragraphs and concepts should be deleted. It’s a sad day when we fear our government to that extent.

I hope this article is a teaser to inspire you to investigate this topic in more depth.

Before discussing the principles of OPSEC I use, let me stress the importance of being the gray man. Research this idea on your own but the basic concept is to blend in without doing anything to make ourselves stand out. For example, as much as I’d love to have a Gadsden flag hanging by my front gate, it attracts unwanted attention and passersby will mentally put me into a certain category of people when they see the flag.

One last important point. There’s an old saying that three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way too many times. With that in mind, other than a spouse it’s extremely important that none of your friends and family know about the precautions you’re taking. They don’t need to know you’re seeking to be invisible, how you’re doing it, or what you’re preparing for. It defeats the purpose of what you’re trying to attain and once the cat’s out of the bag, many of your efforts will have been wasted. The few family and friends who are mentioned below as helping me in various ways aren’t aware of the real reasons why I ask for their help. I’ve never asked for any questionable or illegal things from them so they probably think I’m asking for convenience sake only.

Now, let’s dive in.

Two Important Principles

To ensure the maximum amount of privacy possible there are two must-do principles which stand above all others:

Never, ever let your name be attached to your home address
Determine what lying is and where to set the bar for your personal privacy goals

A lesser degree of privacy, still valuable in its own right, can be obtained without these two principles but if you want as much OPSEC privacy as possible, these two rules are paramount.

Note: When discussing OPSEC in this article, privacy from the NSA & Company is excepted since it’s nearly impossible to achieve. Even with the completely off-grid lifestyle that Unabomber Ted Kazinski lived, he was still eventually caught.

Lying and Law Breaking

What constitutes lying?

One definition of a lie is, “A false statement made by one person to another who is entitled to hear and know the truth, and which false statement tends to injure that person.” The two key elements are whether one has a right to know the information in the first place, and whether the lie can cause injury to that person.

At every level of government many of the laws in this and every other country compel us to provide information which many of us consider to be none of their business. The powers that be are only legally entitled to it because “We said so!” Not having the correct information will not harm them in any way yet most of us interested in OPSEC still feel compelled to supply it in detail. When trying to protect our privacy as much as possible, it’s not always advisable to live by the letter of the law. Each of us has to determine to what degree we are willing to implement this principle. To remain anonymous on the internet, we generally use pseudonyms to maintain our privacy. This type of lie harms no one and can protect us from any number of potential harms from sales people to stalkers. Other lies are to protect our personal safety: “Honey, does this make me look fat?”

The same concept applies when trying to maintain our privacy in the real world outside the internet.

With all laws we should do a risk/benefit analysis when deciding whether to follow the letter of the law, the spirit of the law, or to ignore it completely.

Many unjust laws carry severe penalties for noncompliance so with those it’s best to tell the truth if we wish to avoid the harsh consequences including property confiscation and incarceration. These would include things like keeping the IRS happy and avoiding other types of felonies.

Keeping Our Home Address Anonymous

The single-most important rule of privacy is: to make sure no one can ever connect us with our home address. Without this as our main goal, we can’t expect to have the full range of privacy we want for whatever reason we want it.

Separating our name from our physical address is most easily accomplished when we change residences, and easiest of all when we move to another state. While taking longer, it can also be attained without changing our living arrangements, though perhaps not quite as successfully, and will require sacrificing some conveniences.

As a simple example of keeping my name separate from my address, during the building of my shop ,I needed a concrete delivery for the foundation. I went to their office, paid cash, and instead of my name I gave them the name of a long-dead ancestor. I gave my address as “on Smith Road, second house west of Elm Street. You’ll see the new construction going on.” Even though they probably weren’t interested in keeping my data my handling of it left no chance of anyone from the concrete company or elsewhere attaching my name to my residence. Small things like this help get us into the habit of keeping our address separate from our name. This helps to increase our invisibility and once the habit is developed it becomes second nature.

When I occasionally go to meetings of various kinds and people ask my name, I only give them an unused nickname. If my name were Terrance, I’d used “Rance” instead of the normal “Terry.” What they ask for my last name, I say with a smile, “Just Rance.”

Post Office, UPS, and FedEx

On my homestead there’s no mailbox in front of the property and no number on the gate or house.

All my mail goes to a PO box in another town. There’s no way to get a PO box without proving a physical address of some sort. When I moved here from out of state the physical address for my temporary rental house worked just fine. After moving to my homestead, I never did update it. Failing to do so falls into the “Oops, I wasn’t aware,” forgiveness category if questioned.

Having a PO box, I never had mail delivered to my rental house address except for the weekly newspaper. With that, I paid cash at the newspaper’s office in town and put the subscription in the name of my childhood best friend. After moving to my homestead I bought a subscription in my own name and had it sent to my PO box.

Mail can also go to a PO box shared with a friend or family member whose physical address is the only one on the account.

My online purchases are delivered to a friend’s house if it requires a physical address for FedEx or UPS. I give my friend a heads up that a package is on its way. The packages are addressed to my friend in their name, with my cat’s name as the middle name to indicate the package is for me.

Many times when various agencies or businesses want proof of our physical residence, they ask for things like bank statements, bills, and other mail delivered to a physical address. Friends and family can help by allowing us to have at least some of our mail such as bank statements or a magazine subscription delivered to their home to help establish that location as a physical address.

In all of these situations where family members are letting us use their physical address or PO box, it should go without saying that they don’t share the same last name as us. There are situations where I’d like my sons to help out with different aspects of my OPSEC but I use my sons-in-law instead because they have a different last name.

Updating Addresses

Statements – While my car insurance company has my former rental-house address on record, they send all communications and statements electronically. There was no need to update my account’s snail-mail address when I moved from a rental house to my homestead in the same county. I don’t insure my house or shop so no insurance company has my physical address.

Driver’s license address – Some methods of maintaining privacy should be researched first in order to be able to properly weigh the risks and benefits and what falls within your comfort zone. Most states, if not all, have only minimal fines for failing to update a driver’s license address, some only $10. In the event they ask you if everything is current, the police officer pulling you over will most likely just give you a warning and tell you to get it updated. Just say “Thank you officer,” and smile real big. Then forget to update it. It pays to be the gray man and not get pulled over by the police in the first place. I haven’t been pulled over since 2004 so I haven’t needed to confirm my address in two decades.

When renewing registrations at the motor vehicle department, they ask if all my information is current, I reply it is, and they hand me the stickers and paperwork.

(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)