At 6 a.m. on Friday, I wake up, fumble for my alarm, and roll out of bed. As I walk to the kitchen to brew coffee, I think to myself: I am a cipher. I exist nowhere. My enemies could not find me, even if they tried. These thoughts come to me not because I fell asleep watching The Bourne Identity or took too much NyQuil before bed, but because I’m psyching myself up for a very difficult assignment.
For the next 24 hours, I’m going to try to live completely surveillance-free. I will foil Chinese hackers and the NSA with encrypted texts and VPN tunnels. I will find ways to buy things online without giving away any personal information and communicate via smartphone without producing metadata. Also, I will wear a funny-looking hat with small lightbulbs in it that will protect me from being caught on camera. With expert help and a spy’s toolkit, I will attempt to stick to my normal routine for an entire day, but without leaving behind a trail of data for the government – or anyone else – to collect.
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