Ghosts get seen

Is it possible to go ghost online, to remain hidden from everyone in the world? Possibly, but it requires a lot of work. For example, I’d need to run an operating system that didn’t give up any of my data and wasn’t vulnerable to attacks. I’d have to make adjustments to the software and the hardware I rely on. I’d need to be cautious about how I connect to the internet, and when connected, I’d need an array of methods and tools to obscure my presence and identity. Such a way of operating is not cheap—mostly in terms of the time, energy and obsession required to set up and maintain it. 

Whilst looking into this idea of ghosting on the net, I came across an innocuous phrase on an obscure forum: ghosts get seen.

For example, if I purchase a burner laptop, install an OS like Qubes, purchase a VPN, and connect to the net on a public network using a service like Tor, I’ve probably increased my chances of not being detected. I’ve also probably increased my chances that someone, somewhere will try to detect me.

Think about it. Everyone, everywhere has a conflicting impulse; we want to stand out, but we want to blend in. That’s why when we walk down the street we see endless variations of established cultural norms. Everyone is wearing shoes, but everyone is wearing different shoes. We all cover our genitalia whilst in public, but how we cover them is dependent on our taste and style. We all have hair, but how much of it and how we cut it differs from person to person. Everyone wants to stand out, but not enough that they don’t blend in.

It’s the same online. The throbbing mass of humanity uses similar online tools, customised in a particular way. Generally, we connect using a Windows or Mac OS, over a personal WiFi connection, using a browser like Chrome or Safari or Firefox. So, when someone doesn’t use any of those tools, it’s obvious. By trying to remain inconspicuous, they become noticeable. 

So, perhaps in real life and online, if we wish to blend in—to remain hidden and out of sight of the powers that be—we shouldn’t try to blend in so much. Instead, we should do what everyone else does, but in a slightly more secure and private way, and leave the obsessive concerns about invisibility and untraceability to the people who really need to be those things.