In an age of constant surveillance, is it possible to find autonomy online?
In our book Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest, Helen Nissenbaum and I look at how Internet users protect their data from governments, corporations, advertisers, and hackers. One strategy in particular drew our attention: obfuscation, or the deliberate production of confusing information. Obfuscation conceals the salient target inside a swarm of copies, plausible alternatives, and puzzling echoes.
“Where does a wise man hide a leaf?” asked Father Brown, G. K. Chesterton’s fictional detective, in 1911. “In the forest. But what does he do if there is no forest?” He grows a forest to hide it in: the act of obfuscation.
Obfuscation is especially relevant in the digital age, but it’s been used throughout history and across an array of technological arenas. This slideshow offers some of our favorite examples from past and present.