Hasan M. Elahi has a fascinating op-ed in today’s New York Times. He describes how in 2002, despite being an American citizen, he was stopped in Detroit upon entering the country and grilled for hours by Federal agents who believed he might be involved in terrorist activity. The Feds followed up with lie detector tests, numerous interviews and other activities.
In response Elahi, decided to log virtually all his activities, travel, and small details of his life, and then continuiusly forward the information to the FBI. He also posted all the information, in an unorganized fashion to his website. He suggests that this might be the best response to government spying. He just might be right.
On my Web site, I compiled various databases that show the airports I’ve been in, food I’ve eaten at home, food I’ve eaten on the road, random hotel beds I’ve slept in, various parking lots off Interstate 80 that I parked in, empty train stations I saw, as well as very specific information like photos of the tacos I ate in Mexico City between July 5 and 7, and the toilets I used.
These images seem empty, and could be anywhere, but they’re not; they are extremely specific records of my exact travels to particular places. There are 46,000 images on my site. I trust that the F.B.I. has seen all of them. Agents know where I’ve bought my duck-flavored paste, or kimchi, laundry detergent and chitlins; because I told them everything….
PEOPLE who visit my site — and my server logs indicate repeat visits from the Department of Homeland Security, the C.I.A., the National Reconnaissance Office and the Executive Office of the President — don’t find my information organized clearly. In fact, the interface I use is deliberately user-unfriendly. A lot of work is required to thread together the thousands of available points of information. By putting everything about me out there, I am simultaneously telling everything and nothing about my life. Despite the barrage of information about me that is publicly available, I live a surprisingly private and anonymous life.