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Is it possible to hide in plain sight?

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Last month, a correspondent with Popular Science conducted his own privacy experiment — to be as anonymous as possible while still living a normal life. His conclusion? That it’s nearly impossible.

The experiment — and the conclusion — is not a first. In 2006, another American author, working on a book about privacy, set out to see how much he could find out about himself, using resources available to the public. He found so much information that his publisher became concerned about his privacy and wouldn’t let him include it all in the book.

If these stories aren’t disturbing enough, the Popular Science article contains recent statistics that are sure to freak you out — like when the British government admitted to losing personal data for 25 million people, almost half the country’s population.

All of this doesn’t say much for the state of our privacy. The article does, however, make an interesting point about the state of anonymity in the past. Think about how people used to share party phone lines with their neighbors – with an operator listening in. And how, in the past, you had to be very careful about handing out personal information – because if you left underwear hanging on the line, or forgot to mow your lawn, disclosing your address could have embarrassing consequences!

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