This weekend I was cruising the Applesphere and came across a handy little Mac utility which makes it easy to hide sensitive details in an image, ostensibly for security purposes; you know the kind– blur out names, social security numbers, addresses, or anything in a photo that can tie itself back to you.
Alright, before I go on, I understand the online rule of article titles that end in a question mark. The answer usually is no, and it’s hard to argue otherwise even in this case, as you’ll see in a few moments.
The Mac app is called, appropriately enough, Redacted and it does to a photo what you see done on television all the time. It redacts specific content within a photo so it’s illegible to anyone who views the photo.
There’s nothing magical about Redacted (Nothing Magical is also the name of the developer’s company), and nothing than any decent Mac graphics app could not do, although not as quickly. Redactions are made using the prominent black bar, the less common blur, and the more common pixelate, but whichever one is chosen covers up whatever you don’t want others to see or read.
Using the app on a few photos uploaded to Facebook, where there are hundreds already that identify exactly who lives on the Mincey Plantation in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA (go crazy trying to find the location; it’s just not that hard to do anymore), I wondered just how a person could redact themselves online.
I don’t think it can be done.
The two major search engines have a method to help them forget you online, and there’s a website called Forget.Me which aims to help you become forgotten by Alphabet’s Google and Microsoft’s Bing.
Search engines may contain plenty of information about each of us, but that’s just scratching the surface. There’s Instagram, various websites, other social media including LinkedIn, Classmates, and many, many, others.
How do you get yourself redacted from those websites?
I say you cannot. The only method that makes sense is to not go there in the first place. Stay offline, off the grid as must as possible, and avoid contact with anyone who does. Buy a solitary one room house deep in the country, grow your own food, make your own clothes, and try to forget about the Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus or anything that Apple makes, and if you must, then go solar and don’t use Wi-Fi.
See the problem there?
Granted, each of us is merely a tiny cog in a giant wheel of creatures who inhabit various online spaces, but that also means others can find out almost anything they need to know about us; anonymity is gone, privacy is a dream, and if we don’t succumb to the intrusion and become a victim and a statistic, we’ll soon know someone who has.
In recent years I though security and privacy were issues that would dominate digital media but that hasn’t become the case. There is no security. There is no privacy. Try as you might, once you’re online, you cannot redact yourself.