IAPP-GDPR Web Banners-300x250-FINAL

You’ve heard that people pay for services with their privacy, but what if people want to pay money for their privacy? What would that cost?

Without realizing it, that’s the question Pulitzer-winning journalist Julia Angwin set out to answer as she began investigating just what it would take to remain anonymous and retain her privacy without giving up the modern conveniences of smart phones, search engines and credit cards.

The results of her investigation make up her new book, Dragnet Nation: A Question for Privacy, Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance, which she outlined as part of a keynote address at the IAPP Global Privacy Summit.

By then end, she was forced to wonder, “Has privacy become a luxury good?” While she spent more than $2,200 on an encryption service, a new computer she could start fresh with, even a bag in which to put her phone, “I still didn’t have any privacy,” she said.

Julia Angwin

When she went to the data brokers, she had no redress. Of 212 brokers she discovered, only 92 would let her opt out. The rest just told her she had no opt-out option or didn’t return her calls at all. While she could stop using Google and start using DuckDuckGo, the results weren’t as accurate. And when she left Gmail, it was virtually impossible to find a private e-mail service that was encrypted and didn’t have logs.

“I ended up with Riseup,” she said, “and I can’t really recommend it. It has tiny storage, and you have to delete all the time. And you have to sign a manifesto. It says you have to be against oppression—gender oppression, capitalist oppression. I decided I was against oppression, so I signed it. Although, at the time, I worked at The WSJ, which has the tagline of ‘adventures in capitalism.’”

She deleted Facebook and LinkedIn. She set up a fake identity in the name of famous journalist Ida Tarbell, so she could have credit cards and pay for things at a restaurant without being trailed.

“But, I didn’t have hope with my cellphone,” she said. “There’s not much you can do … I put some encryption apps on my phone, but I can’t talk to anyone else. So, I’ve got Ida’s phone. Ida has a phone. At least the tracking is in her name. And then, occasionally, I put it in a bag. It blocks all the signals, but my kids can’t reach me. Not exactly optimal.”

It was deeply unsatisfying, expensive and ineffective.

“I ultimately left thinking, ‘This is unfair,’” she told the collected privacy professionals. “Some of the privacy problems I could solve myself, but some of these things need a collective action.”

Written By

Sam Pfeifle


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Advertise in IAPP Publications

Find out how to get your message in front the people you want to reach. Download a media kit now.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

New Web Conferences Added!

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Staff

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Close-up

Looking for tools and info on a hot topic? Our close-up pages organize it for you in one easy-to-find place.

Where's Your DPA?

Our interactive DPA locator helps you find data protection authorities and summary of law by country.

IAPP Westin Research Center

See the latest original research from the IAPP Westin fellows.

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

More Resources »

GDPR Comprehensive: Registration Open

New! Intensive two-day GDPR training led by the sharpest minds in the field. It's a can't-miss event.

The Congress Is Cancelled

The IAPP Europe Data Protection Congress 2015 is cancelled. Click through to learn more.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»