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Privacy Protection and the Unexpected Costs

John McAfee talks about privacy protection and the unexpected costs of keeping your information private.

We can all agree that privacy is a good thing. But how much privacy do we really need? And the even more important question – what are we willing to sacrifice for that privacy? Because privacy protection comes with costs and trade-offs. And the more privacy we want, the more costs we’ll have to pay.


See The Unexpected Cost of Privacy with John McAfee for a complete transcript of the Easy Prey podcast episode.

John McAfee is best known for creating the McAfee Antivirus software. But he’s also a cryptocurrency evangelist, a privacy activist, and someone who has taken extreme measures to protect his own privacy. He has paid all the costs to have the most privacy possible. Some of those costs he expected, but others he didn’t anticipate.

Privacy Protection Precautions

John never likes to reveal all his secrets, just in case. There are many privacy protection efforts he makes every day. These are a few of them.

Avoiding Cell Phones

Neither John or his wife, Janice, have cell phones. John considers cell phones the universal spy devices. Even if you buy a brand new phone, if you call three people you’ve called in the past, if the government is looking for you they can find you within five minutes. Smartphones are also susceptible to spyware. You can pick up spyware just from browsing the wrong sites online. It’s just too much of a risk for John.

A Faraday Cage

When he does have to use technology, John has a Faraday cage in his house. A Faraday cage prevents electromagnetic signals from getting in or out. John uses his Faraday cage so that no electronic communications, wifi, or anything else can get out of one specific space. It started out as a room covered in tin foil. But that was ugly and reflected light. So he and his wife covered the tinfoil with soundproofing foam. The room is now both a Faraday cage and soundproofed.

A Serious VPN

Using a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a great step for privacy protection. John uses a serious VPN – not the kind you can get on Google for eighty dollars a year. His goes though nine countries, including the Netherlands, Vietnam, Russia, and Tierra del Fuego. It makes his communication a big laggy sometimes, but it’s one of the costs he’s had to pay for privacy protection.

Disinformation

Another strategy John uses for privacy protection is disinformation. He and his wife put out as much inaccurate or confusing information as possible. They may visit a country for a day or two and take dozens of photos, but they never post the photos while they’re still there. Instead, they post photos from all over the world at random times so no one can figure out where they are. They may be spending the week in Belarus, but on Twitter it looks like they’ve spent the week traveling back and forth between Germany, France, Portugal, and England. No pictures of Belarus will show up on Twitter until long after they’ve left.

They also do trivial things like putting a fake date and time on photos, even when uploading them to Twitter. Twitter strips out that metadata before posting it, but the government could subpoena Twitter and ask to see the data before it got stripped. Some things can’t be reasonably faked – the Eiffel Tower is always going to be in Paris, and approximate sun angles will give you an approximate time, but John can put in any date he wants.

Could someone get more information from the photos even with the data removed? Of course. But John has been providing this disinformation his whole life. It’s unlikely that anyone will dedicate the people needed to locate him. Even if they do, it’s easy for John to move.

You have to be vigilant, and it’s work every day in order to remain hidden.

John McAfee

Technology Tools and Privacy Protection

There are some privacy-focused technology tools out there. TOR, for example, is a browser that most people consider to be excellent for privacy protection. But according to John, TOR is not as private as most people think. It’s been so infiltrated that it’s practically impossible to have any privacy with it.

[Tor] was infiltrated by the CIA many years ago … you might as well take out advertisements in the New York Times and discuss your private matters there.

John McAfee

Many other technological solutions that are advertised for privacy protection are actually insecure. There’s a piece of spyware called Read and Verify that you can buy for about fifty dollars. You use it on emails so that you can get a notification when people open your emails and their location. You can use this spyware on every encrypted email service … but not Gmail. It’s tragic, but Google is the best option for privacy. Gmail is the only secure email, and it’s not very secure at that.

If it is advertised at all and it’s encrypted, it’s owned by the KGB, the CIA, the FBI, or somebody.

John McAfee

If you don’t believe him, try it for yourself. Buy the spyware and test it. It works on ProtonMail and any other encrypted email service. You’ll learn exactly when they opened the email, their location, and their IP address. But if you try with Gmail, it can’t be done. Google never really trusted anybody, and as long as they get their money, they’re happy to give you your privacy.

Cryptocurrency for Financial Privacy Protection

John and Janice don’t have bank accounts. They don’t have credit cards, checks, or money transfer options. Everything they do is through cryptocurrency, and has been through years. There are hundreds of thousands of people on the planet who use nothing but cryptocurrency. John has purchased houses, cars, bulletproof vests, shoes, food, and clothes with cryptocurrency.

Some people worry that cryptocurrency isn’t the best option for privacy protection. After all, with cryptocurrency, you have a Wallet ID. Once someone has your Wallet ID, most people think that makes your financial information available to anyone who cares to watch. But that’s only true if you’re using an outdated currency like Bitcoin or Ethereum. For financial privacy protection, John uses newer privacy coins like Monero.

With Bitcoin, having that Wallet ID will let you see every payment coming in and out. It’s like if John paid his plumber with a check, and that plumber went to the bank and says, “I got this check from John, so please tell me how much is in his account and let me know every time money enters or leaves.” With a coin not made for privacy protection, the bank will tell him. But with a privacy-focused coin, having the Wallet ID doesn’t mean anything. No one can see what’s there or the transactions.

Privacy Protection when Traveling Internationally

John won’t share a lot of his tricks for privacy reasons. But he does have some tricks he will share. He has multiple passports, all legal. This can help him cross borders anonymously. If you know anything about international travel, you know that a Chinese passport has to also be printed in English for English-speaking countries to read the name. Your Chinese name, though, will be in Chinese characters. John’s name in China isn’t John McAfee. He won’t share his Chinese surname, but his Chinese given name is Ma Jia Fe. No computer in the world would connect the passport for Ma Jia Fe with John McAfee.

There are thousands of these little techniques you can use to cross borders as a completely different person legally.

John McAfee

People tend to recognize John when traveling, but when privacy protection is paramount, there are tools to avoid it. He travels with his wife Janice, a beautiful black woman half his age. If they’re worried about being recognized, they will split up and enter or leave a few minutes apart. It cuts recognition by ninety-five percent. John will also wear big glasses, a hat, and a hoodie, sometimes with a big scarf. When coronavirus mask regulations started, the mask was a benefit. With a baseball hat, hoodie, big glasses, and a mask, no facial recognition system would be able to catch him.

The One Aspect of Privacy Protection No One Considers

The biggest aspect of privacy protection that no one things about is friends. John and Janice have to lie to their friends as well as the public. Why? Because they just don’t know. A friend who knows the truth may accidentally let something slip.

No matter how careful you are, how smart you are, we all have friends. Sometimes these friends are not quite as aware … as we are.

John McAfee

Many people don’t realize how hard it is to have true privacy protection. You have to be very strict. You can’t tell your brother, sister, mother, father, children, best friend, guy you grew up with, guy who went to jail with you, or the guy who would help you bury a body. People don’t understand how strict you have to be. Friends and family can get upset when you aren’t honest with them anymore. That’s where people screw up, because you cant tell anyone anything. It’s not that they would actively try to harm you. But it’s very easy for someone to let something slip about where you really are or what you’re up to.

The cost of true privacy protection is very steep. Is it worth it to you? For most people, it’s not. John wouldn’t recommend his lifestyle to anybody. But for himself and Janice, privacy protection is crucial. Therefore, they go through things that others wouldn’t think about.

Privacy Protection for the Average Person

If you have a smartphone, your privacy is already compromised. Smartphones are designed to spy on you. Not for an insidious or evil purpose, but to sell you things. They know where you are and your favorite food so the Japanese restaurant down the street from your current location will pay to send you an advertisement and convince you to eat there. If you’ve ever Googled something and then gone to Facebook and seen an ad, you know how it works.

You’ve got no privacy if you have a smartphone.

John McAfee

But everything that phone knows about you can also be used by hackers, thieves, gangsters, the CIA, the FBI, and others. Most people volunteer to give this information. You download an app and it asks for permission to access your contacts, microphone, camera, and whatnot. When we give access, that app can now spy on you and your friends forever. The absurd part is that we give them those permissions and allow them to do this.

Why John Chose Extreme Privacy

Not everyone has to live the way John does. He chooses to because he doesn’t want to be silenced. The United States government doesn’t want him to talk about how their agencies can invade the lives of their citizens. It needs to be said, and few people are willing to live the way he does to speak out about it.

If you’re not in John’s shoes, you don’t need to worry much. The government doesn’t care about what you watch on PornHub or if you’re stealing candy bars. They care about more insidious things, like if your thoughts, attitudes, and actions are supportive of the police state growing around us.

Is John paranoid or a conspiracy theorist? He doesn’t care what you call him. He’s seventy-five years old, founded the world’s largest computer security company, and is telling you what he believes to be the truth.

If you are skating on the edge of the political universe, before you fall off, get in touch with John because he can save you a great deal of trouble.

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