A Primer on Security Culture

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“I don’t accept the idea that if we nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. Privacy serves a purpose. It’s why we have blinds on our windows and a door on our bathroom. Privacy is important to us, it’s something that we take for granted as being central to our lives. In other words, we have plenty to hide, and it’s always been our right to hide it, until now, because today there are people who don’t want us to protect our privacy, who want, and to a large degree, already have free access to our personal information…we have to recognize that both our individual and collective existence depend upon a base level of control over our own privacy. Privacy is not a privilege, and it is not something to be willingly and casually sacrificed. Privacy is fundamental to being a human being, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Alex Winter



Security culture, briefly defined, is the direct application of the right to privacy. Some believe that privacy is only valuable insofar as it is relevant to one’s survival. This view typically clashes with the ideologically driven perspective that privacy ought to be thought of as an end, a means, and an insight based upon one’s principles. What integrates the privacy-as-survival and privacy-on-principle camps is security culture, which is not only deontologically consistent, but also empirically demonstrative of what happens when individual privacy is respected or otherwise not disregarded.

Why is security culture an application of privacy? The right to privacy is an individual’s sphere of activity that is exempted from public scrutiny; similarly, an expectation of privacy is an individual’s assumption that his right to privacy will be respected. In other words, security culture presumes the right to privacy as a given, and as such, is only concerned with how to practically implement it.

Just as important as what security culture is, is what it is not. Security theater is the polar opposite of security culture, particularly considering that the latter is the answer to the former. Security culture is not “civil libertarianism,” which is solely reliant upon legal interstices, and even reformism, in purportedly achieving its stated goals of increased human liberty. Furthermore, security culture is also not survivalism, despite some overlap they may share at times regarding emergency preparedness and self-sufficiency.

Properly understood, it should be clear that security culture does not break the government’s laws in and of itself. Although security culture does share with vonu the desire to reduce one’s vulnerability to coercion, its goal of hardening your life is by no means necessarily comprehensive throughout your lifestyle in the same way that vonu works. Civil disobedience, whether it takes the form of agorism or satyagraha (aka, “teasing the bear,” or “falling on your sword”), can be performed in direction violation of security culture, as is often the case. Armed resistance is enhanced by the use of security culture, regardless of the operation’s type (such as monkey-wrenching or assassination markets).

Literature about security culture has really exploded over the past two decades. Robert Smith’s Our Vanishing Privacy (besides his Privacy Journal), Farren & Gibbs’ Who’s Watching You?, Frank Abagnale’s Stealing Your Life, Bill Kaysing’s Privacy: How to Get it, How to Enjoy It, Claire Wolfe’s Rats!, Gini Graham’s Mind Your Own Business, and Naomi Wolf’s The End of America have really opened my eyes as to just how wretchedly horrid Leviathan is in exercising raw power. Yet, at the same time, these books have also showed me that all is not lost if people are willing to take responsibility for their own actions by stopping their acquiescence to all of these gross invasions of privacy.

Strategically, the use of security culture ultimately leads towards gradually hardening an individual’s life by securing all aspects of it, thereby shoring up anyone’s vulnerabilities from being compromised and exploited. Much like vonu, security culture aims to reduce your vulnerability to coercion, specifically blackmail and extortion. Successful implementation relies upon both the efficacy of tactics as well as their harmonious utilization.

Methodologically, security culture possesses quite a variety to suite a range of tastes. For over three years, I have periodically examined some aspect of security culture so as to discover the truth behind privacy itself. A listed bibliography of the entire series is as follows:

Needless to say, the National Security Agency indiscriminately wiretaps telephones without any search warrants because “foreign intelligence surveillance” is an exception to the Warrant Clause of the Fourth Amendment. Trying to overload the NSA’s servers at the Utah Data Center by using emails laden with allegedly suspicious keywords is utterly fallacious simply because you would be using the smallest conceivable file size to overwhelm the largest conceivable set of cloud computing servers. When it comes to cellular telephones, you have no legally effective protections via the Fourth Amendment, so any privacy you can expect to realistically have are most likely to come in the form of an encrypted smartphone using free and open-source software. If you were to blend high-tech cryptographic software with low-tech cryptography, you might very well be able to sidestep any potential backdoors completely; at the very least, you ought to install, configure, and regularly use Pretty Good Privacy in order to encrypt your emails.

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal imposed, among many things, a bankrupt “social insurance” government program that now effectively compels you to keep a vigilant guard over a number that uniquely identifies you. Europeans have tried to scrub the Internet of truthful information about some individuals, and there is demand to import a so-called “right to be forgotten” into America. Wishful thinking and blind faith encourage security theater by ridiculing skeptical inquiry, no matter how full of holes these promoted myths actually are; similarly, the fear-mongering of near weekly “doom porn” seeks to inculcate a sense of learned helplessness in those who consume the news cycle like dieters on a binge. Emancipating court cases from the judiciary’s paywall, in order to learn about mistakes that were made by political prisoners when they violated security culture, are cautionary tales warning privacy advocates to take their advocacy as seriously as a heart attack. Securely archiving your records comes a close second to shutting the fuck up about matters you ought not to flap your gums about, especially publicly.

The federal government demonizes Americans based in large part on their chosen ideology, despite being such a flagrant violation of the First Amendment. Posting custom aluminum warning signage is no guarantee that the government police and the judges in their courts will actually respect the limitations imposed by the Fourth Amendment. Roleplaying police interrogations is actually rather quite practical for staying out of jail, yet, blending into the social environment as a grey man is noticeably more preferable. Travelling in an inconspicuous car and fortifying your domicile against intruders reduces the likelihood of harassment and crime against your person and property. Keeping the peace is vital for avoiding unnecessary trouble, as is vetting likely allies and ostracizing disingenuous activists from your circle of trust. If all else fails, the benefits accrued from informant hunting are great should you publicly expose and then shamelessly humiliate them for their proven complicity with the government.

Privacy advocacy organizations, much like the security culture literature, have been popping up in recent decades. Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion & Numbering (CASPIAN), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), and even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have all spoken out against the rampant abuses committed by the government and their corporations against the privacy of the American citizenry. Much like EPIC and EFF, the ACLU is significant for two primary reasons, namely, transparency and public interest litigation; not only has the ACLU gotten the word out by spreading awareness regarding a plethora of privacy issues, but they also habitually sue the government, which although is not always successful or broadly effective, at least it provides a solid basis for expressing one’s grievances, if nothing else. ACLU’s lawyers involve themselves in matters ranging from homosexual discrimination issues (including discrimination against AIDS/HIV patients) to wiretapping, censorship, government secrecy, cyber-liberties, medical records privacy, and workplace privacy.

Interestingly enough, the most valuable advocacy organization, I think, is not one of those who chiefly rely on litigation to make a difference, but rather, informs you of the many and sundry techniques for increasing your privacy using the legal framework as it is right now. PRC has issued “Fact Sheets” across a range of privacy topics that focus on taking effective action today. I whole-heartedly recommend that you read the following list of fact sheets, at the very minimum:

  1. Privacy Survival Guide: Take Control of Your Personal Information
  2. Wireless Communications: Voice & Data Privacy
  3. How to Put an End to Unwanted or Harassing Phone Calls
  4. Junk Mail: How Did They All Get My Address?
  5. Telemarketing: How to Have a Quiet Evening at Home
  6. Credit Reporting Basics: How Private is My Credit Report?
  7. Workplace Privacy & Employee Monitoring
  8. Introduction to Health & Medical Information Privacy
  9. Wiretapping & Eavesdropping on Telephone Calls
  10. My Social Security Number: How Secure Is It?
  11. From Cradle to Grave: Government Records & Your Privacy
  12. A Checklist of Responsible Information-Handling Practices
  13. Are You Being Stalked?
  14. Privacy When Shopping
  15. Employment Background Checks: A Jobseeker’s Guide

Granted, although they do seem to focus more on telecommunications and data security (with virtually nothing on low-profile behavior), what I think is uniquely valuable about PRC’s fact sheets is that they concisely give you many options of direct action that you can undertake today without either asking anyone’s damn permission or “organizing” a “group” to go do anything, as near as I can tell.

Reformism has never solved the grievances of dragnet wiretapping, unjust profiling, or the artificial creation of political prisoners. Security culture, as a strategy for making yourself into a hard target, uses a variety of direct action tactics whose efficacy is at least not disproven, given that some methods are proven whereas others are simply unproven (that is, experimental). As the true application of the precautionary principle, security culture blends seamlessly into your life. Regardless of ideology, American political dissidents should begin implementing security culture techniques given their outspoken advocacy of freedom generally; what better way to do so than by practically living it in their own lives as good role-models?

Postscript: I’d like to extend a special thank you to Shane Radliff for all of his assistance in helping me not only prepare my arguments for this series on privacy, but also in organizing all the relevant security culture literature in their entirety. You can listen to the audio (“spoken discourse”) version of the entire series, as well as the book reports that inspired me to compile this series in the first place. Finally, be sure to check out all the freely downloadable security culture literature that was gleaned from a variety of sources.

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