An often-overlooked ingredient of international diversification is spreading your digital presence across multiple friendly jurisdictions.
Just as obtaining a second passport or an offshore bank account can help you obtain significant political diversification benefits, so too can moving your digital presence to multiple jurisdictions.
Most of us today have a significant digital presence, in both our personal and professional lives.
In this digital age, restricting internet access and spying on and/or seizing digital data and otherwise tampering with an individual’s digital presence have become new tools in the traditional toolbox of governments.
There’s no doubt that Big Tech firms like Google and Facebook, the US government, and numerous others are very much in the business of undermining your privacy and digital sovereignty.
Keeping your digital presence under the jurisdiction of only one unfriendly country—such as the United States—is not prudent.
Diversifying your digital presence is the solution.
This will help you secure your privacy and ensure that no government can pull the plug on your digital life or shut down your online business at the drop of a hat.
For more on this topic we turn to Paul Rosenberg, renowned expert in digital diversification and privacy.
International Man: Why is the United States such an unfriendly place when it comes to your privacy and digital presence?
Paul Rosenberg: It comes down to “because they can,” I suppose. Most of these technologies were created in the US, which means that there are more competent technicians available there. But perhaps equal to that has been the fear of the populace in the aftermath of 9/11. It’s a sad truth that frightened people do stupid things, and frightened Americans released their rulers from scrutiny.
When you combine the factors above with the innate control obsession of rulers, you get the current mess.
International Man: Lately we’ve been seeing Big Tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and many others engaging in censorship and arbitrarily kicking people off their platforms. This trend seems to only be getting worse.
Anyone who deviates from mainstream thinking and so-called conventional wisdom—in economics, politics, health and nutrition… anything—is at risk.
How can diversifying your digital presence protect you from these kinds of abuses?
Paul Rosenberg: At this point, you have to consider the Big Tech companies as organs of the state or very nearly so. Julian Assange wrote a good book on Google’s partnership with the US State Department, but it goes beyond that. To fully explain this would take some time, but more or less all of the giant tech firms are joined at the hip with one or more government agencies and will generally do as they wish.
The solution is decentralization and diversification. First of all, it is a grave risk to put your trust in any single platform. There are alternatives; people just need to use them. You also need to take yourself and your company out of your home jurisdiction. Otherwise they will know everything about you and what you do, will have complete power over it, and will in fact use it against you, whether you see it being done or not. (And the parts you don’t see are by far the worst.)
International Man: What is the typical breakdown of the different pieces of someone’s digital presence? Can you describe what they are?
Paul Rosenberg: Sure. The first identifier is your IP address. (IP stands for “internet protocol.”) Your IP address will most commonly identify the router you get from your phone or cable company. That is, it connects everything you send and receive to a precise physical address. Another big problem is the machine address, which identifies each device (computer, phone, TV, etc.). Email addresses—especially if you have a free email account such as Gmail—are a massive problem also.
International Man: Let’s take one piece at a time. Why would someone consider diversifying their IP address? How does it work and how can you do it?
Paul Rosenberg: Data sent over the internet has no preset path, but it does have a specific destination address, and that is part of every transmission. So, if your real IP address is used, everyone who sees that data stream knows precisely where you are and what you’re reading or writing. (Machine addresses and email addresses track you as well, of course.)
To shield your IP address, you need a good VPN, a virtual private network. This technology, if implemented correctly (and usually it isn’t), sends indecipherable gibberish to and from your IP address and sends your actual traffic to and from somewhere far away.
International Man: It’s no secret that most email providers are not protecting your privacy and digital data. Why is securing your email so important? How can someone diversify and secure their email and the data they upload to the cloud?
Paul Rosenberg: Free email providers make money by monetizing your life. They know your strengths, your weaknesses, which child you favor, and much, much more. Then they feed on that, Google to the tune of more than $100 billion per year. You escape that by paying an email provider who will not track and sell your communications. Also by protecting the messages you send.
International Man: What do you look for in a friendly jurisdiction for your digital presence? And what are some of your favorites?
Paul Rosenberg: Sadly there is no longer any particularly great jurisdiction. All of them have become addicted to data—more today than yesterday and more than that tomorrow. What you have to do these days is send your data through multiple jurisdictions, encrypted and anonymized all the while, and be sure that it is very, very hard to correlate with any point of origin.
Doing all of that, however, requires a multi-jurisdictional presence and considerable technical prowess. (The data thieves are well-funded professionals, after all.) And that means that you’ll have to pay for it. Unfortunately there’s a “free stuff” mania on the internet, and many people will suspend their disbelief for almost anything that’s “free.”