Americans see reports like the above, and move to enrich businesses by wrongly concluding more tech and hidden camera laws will protect their privacy. But I drafted this in Asia Pacific, where like Russia, there's an implicit cultural understanding of how porous security is. And the thrill of circumvention.
Many on Social Media are fixated on #MeToo and #TimesUp while women are assaulted and raped daily in India. Which by the way, needs the selfsame 2017 revolution claiming the jobs of many U.S. media heavy hitters the most. Yet nobody tells women about the one threat MORE tech and business-driven than it is security-driven. A secret camera porn problem with the law ALWAYS steps behind. A silent, digital, cyber stalking, sexual harassment menace to their data privacy. And by extension, their dignity. But I address all that in detail, in this piece.
This is long-form content. And for those with the attention span of a gold fish, I'll be succinct: Privacy is dead. Being threat smart in the context of privacy begins with NOT going places or creating data. Something anti-upskirting activists like Gina Martin don't get. Although well-intentioned, #StopSkirtingTheIssue is naïve.
There's a perspective you get from living in China as a security researcher and lawyer BEFORE the advent of smartphones and sophisticated mini spy cams and AFTER, as a Black man — and the horrid tales of secret filming, some shared below — that teaches you the wisdom of adapting rather than naively expecting new laws and aloof politicians to help. Same reason you don't go to Saudi Arabia as a foreign female, many parts of the Middle East or Africa and insist on quickly changing anti-gay, anti-porn or miniskirt laws. I tell female friends and relatives to adapt (as below) rather than waste time reacting, because it is impossible to keep up. Whether we're talking Stalkerware (click below), or new technologies enabling Deep Fake News — which frankly should worry you more than such Social Media campaigns misleading the gullible into a false sense of security — there's much bigger fish to fry.You'll understand as you delve deeper, click my resource-rich hyperlinked images and hypertexts throughout this piece. But essentially, what I mean by creating data is: In a data-driven world such as ours, everything you do or say creates data. Data you should never naïvely assume exists to help you.
For example, what does the appalling conviction rate of U.S. police officers caught on camera murdering unarmed Black people tell you? I lived in Greece before, with the same security and privacy mindset exercised here. So sadly, there's a lesson in Bakari Henderson's tragic murder.
As a Black man, I see ignorance killing or leading others like me to trouble every day. But you'll soon connect the dots. And if not, for a consulting fee, I can help. However, whether your job involves lots of traveling, hotel stays; if you're a good employee, nanny, or Airbnb, luxury, ride hailing and other cleaning services or rentals customer; or simply a good person who expects your privacy to be protected by more law, tech, or the goodwill of bystanders or strangers, reconsider. Because all it takes is exposure to/in the wrong location, boss, regime or people who will violate you anyhow.
Living in Greece, like the Bronx (New York) where I once called home, Philadelphia, my adopted (college) home, and all other countries throughout Europe, North America, Africa and Asia, security-wise, meant keeping a low profile. Avoiding clubs, parties, booze, street hangouts; crowded places — for prolonged periods — or unnecessary public transport, matters. Also, positively vet and exclusively deal with conservative, religious, elderly folks when renting. For (vacation) home security read:Part 2 further below addresses home security product limitations. But depending on the size of your home, a highly responsible, agile and well-trained professional or family acting as house sitter(s) is best. Moreover, the reason I recommend elderly folks is because they often have family, generational and reputational attachments to the services they provide, with (likely) more predictable, verifiable standards. Indeed you're also more likely to find them through word of mouth or a church, than on some App! Indeed from Scotland to Japan, these have been among my best memories. Problem is, oversexualized Westerners want to have their cake and eat it too, to which Seth Godin says:In a world of biometric surveillance, where “there is no place to hide” I couldn't agree more.
Which brings us to China. The most surveilled nation after North Korea. Black or Brown folks' privacy nightmare. Already at the forefront of Misusing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to profile and infringe on Human Rights. A nation without due process, where lawyers I know have emigrated; where thanks to addictive censorship and a virtuous circle of ignorance atop a culture of gossip and dishonesty (click image above), Black people are constantly secretly filmed and racially profiled. By Mainlanders. Using mobile and sophisticated devices with upskirting ingenuity. Indeed from authorities/security guards to employees, landlords and restaurant workers abusing their positions, I've seen all the tricks. So, with China's police now using facial recognition shades to target “criminals” ...what could go wrong?Black Youtuber vlogs abound. But what they rarely share is/are heated, often jingoistic abuse after Mainlanders are caught red-handed and they use brinkmanship to lie right to the victim's face. And if smart and you pretend to look away, how gleeful Mainlanders look thinking they just cheated you. I once got on a bus after a long business day in Hong Kong, where people are too civil and preoccupied for that. Took a seat and briefly exchanged pleasantries in Chinese with a young couple occupying the two seats on the other side. Dozed off only to wake up thanks to a pothole, with the girl's smartphone in my face, —leaning over her partner who was playing video games, filming. Like a tourist attraction.
There's an art and science to the following, and China's subways are the worse for privacy. Especially if you're Black. The average Mainland Chinese bus has a minimum of anywhere between 6 to 8, sometimes 9 CCTV cameras. As well as cameras on new bus card readers. You want ONLY a rear seat. Sit or stand anywhere else and people quietly film you, instantly upload to their WeChat (Weixin) with typically ignorant, judgmental, stupid comments. I've made several strangers delete images after catching them. A Kenyan stranger told me how he angrily threw someone's phone out of the bus. And the driver — unusually apathetic given Mainlanders' typically nationalist indoctrination — helped him by refusing to stop the bus for the owner to frantically collect his now partially damaged phone. Strategic considerations:
From streets to courtrooms in China, foreigners are guilty by default. Blacks in particular, under constant surveillance. Meanwhile, subway or passport travel à la Gui Minhai, only exposes targets.
I'll spare you details of the time I was swarmed by 20 poorly trained “petty” police officers barely 5 minutes after stepping out for an evening walk. But, as I advised the African, it's not worth it. You'll understand why further below. Nevertheless, although China's a tough case, it helps to know:Secondly, the rear bus camera sits directly above your head. So take necessary precautions with your devices and sensitive data assets. Do leverage bus curtains, or improvise. Because needless to say, once you're spotted by privacy violators from the outside, you're screwed. Critically, avoid weekend, rush hour, or national holiday outings. As for clubs, read about foreigners languishing in jails further below. Me? I only did groceries or run errands during business hours, running by the clock in such a way as to dodge China's notoriously crowded buses. For subway security and privacy, contact me.Often benefiting or shielding the people in stronger positions, surveillance laws globally are often in place to benefit governments. Not individuals. And China is no different. Click below to understand the NSA's reach, locally and internationally. And use that information to enhance your privacy.However, winning the privacy game begins with thinking far ahead enough to know with whom and where not to engage in the first place. And for women in particular, Real Estate and fitting/changing rooms have, and always will be watering holes. Whatever the country. So, choose your spots.
For maximum security: Avoid not just China's hotels but all hotels whenever and wherever possible. And for maximum home security and privacy, mind who you let into your house as dodgy people do plant devices. Also, beware of the Pros & Cons of the “Best Home Security Products” and read:Extreme? Sure. But that's because the cat's already out of the bag and it doesn't matter which country you find yourself. No matter how good your countermeasures, someone is always a step ahead. Plus, you won't always have time to implement the best tips above. Or extreme ones like the below:Coming back, I cover China's Big Brother addiction and developments extensively in my tweets so you may follow me on Twitter for that. But, China's Social Credit system plus street lights and ubiquitous motion sensors, hidden cameras and laws, harvesting, tracking and mapping private and business digital data footprint isn't as freakishly Orwellian as how it effectively limits the success prospects of its oppressed Uyghurs through DNA, Fingerprint, photos, Iris scan and medical data surveillance. Click below for HRW (Human Rights Watch) report. And here to tighten your Google privacy settings.I realize the previous advice doesn't sound practicable to many, but read on, and get good at minimizing your digital footprint. Or capitulate. Because the value of associated AI and tech (below) is precisely why both security and the law will keep playing a losing game of catch me if you can.From your opinions on social networks or wherever recording devices — including hidden cameras — exist, to living thing; to your physical presence anywhere, your privacy and security comes from your mastering the art and science of practical lifestyle adjustments. Not more tech. Consider this:
Recently, when Bloomberg shared designer and social media enthusiast Karim Rashid's — I'm sure well-meaning but naive — idea of the first thing you should do when you enter a hotel room my response, which you can read on Twitter, was swift and forthright. So, with the video above, I'll expatiate.
Your design, fashion, luxury and other Social Media obsession(s) may be other people's Surveillance hobby or job. For this reason alone, the first thing to do in a hotel room is ADJUST your security awareness.
Indeed as a lawyer who isn't attached to the vocation, I've always found terms like “reasonable expectation of privacy” laughable. And to live in China for just one day with eyes wide open, or for over thirteen years as I did, is to understand why even in America, any new advancement in technology is an opportunity for business, crime and ever more snooping. But I'm getting ahead of myself. (All images, hyperlinked with rich resource, remember).
Most people, for reasons addressed further below will continue to struggle with digital age privacy intrusions in ways neither technology nor legislation can fix. In a data-driven world, every action creates a footprint. So more tech, more meaningless social media, more apps, more sign-ups, sexting, creating sex tapes — if that's your thing, despite repeated high profile nude leaks and revenge porn, etc. — is all digital footprint baggage likely to expose you to privacy and security intrusions, as well as blackmail and extortion.
The absolute first thing is (see bottom of page) threat modeling: Do I even need to be in a hotel in the first place? Or: No question I need so-and-so service. But what's my privacy and security posture? Notice there's nothing technical or cyber security-ish about that notion. But people hate thinking! So I'll wrap REAL African, Asian, European and U.S. personal stories around the image below.For a short while before switching off on moral grounds, I watched, as a teen in the Bronx (New York), a half nude lady adjacent to our apartment building every night around 8PM. Nonchalantly bouncing up from bed and striding about in underwear and see-though lingerie apparently after work, she enjoyed her TV and life, fully exposed to anyone with the time and technology to snoop.
Of course this was long before the advent of smartphones and sophisticated nano and home spy cams.
Then years ago in China my two Chinese friends stood aghast during an apartment search, as I pointed to a hobbyist's balcony. Packed with more spy and video voyeurism gear than above, they were finally connecting the dots. Years after mocking me for being too paranoid about security and privacy.
During another apartment search, a naked man fetching something in his apartment unknowingly silenced the real estate agent who'd been politely disagreeing with me about what one could or couldn't see from where. Angles, remember. In fact, from Europe to Asia, I couldn't tell you how many times I wondered what I did to deserve being at just the right place at the right time to spot fully nude — mostly women — opening windows or walking into or out of some bathroom.
A full block across in New York, I lacked the best view. Yet the imagination I applied, she lacked.Being a mobile phone zombie today trapped in Social Media vanity doesn't help. For as in Boxing, Self-Defense or Surviving Terrorism, angles do matter. Cat videos or memes will only take you so far.
Invest the time to learn angles. From defensive driving, to educative spy thrillers and real life and death examples, you don't have to understand what peripheral threats are. Or like my ignorant European friend, facetiously shrug: “Even if they get my pictures what are they gonna do with it?”Deep fake news. That's what. To answer that silly question. Moreover, looking to nonexistent laws or clichéd corporate promises of “we take your security [or privacy] seriously” or naïvely traveling, American or not, with ANY expectation of privacy, won't cut either.
So how to protect your privacy in a world where radio frequency (RF) finders or RF bug detectors have their limits? My answers may underwhelm you. But that's because there's what I give away for free, versus solutions I implement through consultation. These are as important as the foregoing:One Recommended Good Site & 2 Products
For travelers, execs, etc. if minimizing your digital footprint isn't feasible for your line of work, as above, then I recommend Riyue's G318, PRC knockoff CC308+ or Spy Finder. Detailed options below:
To be clear, I have no affiliation with both EzVid, Inc. and Spyville. But I often use the latter's site for quick security and market research. So as far as countermeasures, absolutely a good place to start.
Attitude, Perspective, Your Smartphone, Digital Devices & Law Enforcement Powers It doesn't matter how tech savvy or wealthy one is. The wrong attitude to privacy under any circumstance — including not, at some point, clicking the above image to read — is all it takes to expose oneself. Steve Jobs for example, died unnecessarily having ignored the RIGHT time-sensitive perspective required to work with doctors and prolong his life. Don't be similarly hard-headed.Don't be naïve about your supposed “rights” either. Because this article is meant to forewarn you that it's not just high-tech surveillance addicts like China. Globally, there's increasingly a legal, technical and security trend/argument for law enforcement to have ready access to search and scan digital devices. Click above to educate yourself (via iTHiNKLabs) and most importantly, make appropriate practical paradigm shifts and data protection contingency plans. Whether you're traveling or not. An amateur allows his client to self-diagnose. But in a world of biometric surveillance where seemingly “there is no place to hide” a genuine professional alone does the diagnosis. So here, I respectfully assert: The first step is understanding that 50% of your solution is appropriate attention given to the content above in its entirety. From anecdotes to hypertexts and linked images. In the feature video, you see an engaged family open, willing to learn. And I stand ready to engage!Education & The Cost of Ignorance in China, America & Beyond
UCLA basketball players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill (above) had at least 12 hours to be educate themselves using their own mobile devices, which unlike my (strategic) $16 Nokia phone, doesn't have internet connection. They had 12 hours to be coached and briefed about China, the surveilled nation after North Korea. Failing that, they had days, months and years to engage with fellow Blacks like me to understand how we navigated Security in China. They squandered all.The information is out there if surrounded by smart people, you use your social media, google and tech wisely. Yet ignorant, they arrived in China, shoplifted, easily got caught by cameras, and got arrested.
Also embedded in the Newsweek story in the other image above is how Wendell Brown — unlike the 3 — is stuck, his family broke, and languishing in a Chinese jail. Because he didn't do his homework either.
You can't decisively win the privacy battle. But don't needlessly leave yourself exposed either.