Does taking steps to protect my privacy arouse suspicion?

I suddenly realised that despite binging on a lot of privacy material online recently, I haven’t actually seen this discussed. Maybe I just missed it - if so, pointers would be appreciated.

My personal threat model is that I’m looking to avoid commercial mass surveillance. I don’t want Big Tech profiling me and using that against me in various ways or selling my info to random people who decide they want to know more about me.

So I’m doing things like using a VPN, using Tor a bit when it feels appropriate, using a de-Googled phone. Does this sort of stuff make me look suspicious? I mostly don’t care if (say) Big Tech thinks it’s suspicious that I’m not generating much data compared to what I used to or compared to most other people - what are they going to do?

I live in a western democracy. I’m politically pretty disillusioned these days, but still, it’s not as if I expect the state secret police to kick the door in at 3am. VPNs aren’t illegal here yet. But I know there is government mass surveillance (partly piggybacked on commercial mass surveillance). Am I running the risk of attracting more attention from authorities by doing this stuff to protect my privacy from commercial mass surveillance? I’m not doing anything illegal, but the idea of coming under increased scrutiny isn’t appealing.


No, these kinds of things make us look weird and eccentric.

Its not inconceivable that VPN users are already flagged in a list somewhere. What matters is that the flags on us are benign enough. So no association with firearms/radicalizing content/etc. Sucks if you are a gun afficionado or already a prepper.

False facial recognition (by bot or a human doxxer) and geofencing are generally more risky in arousing general suspicion. So avoid going outside unnecessarily. If you are an outdoor-sy type, moving to a rural area with less cell sites and surveillance cam would be best for your sanity.

Facial Recognition

License Plate Readers

Google/Facebook trackers selling info

Insurance companies selling info

Data Breaches from virtually everyone

Govts working w/Tech Giants

It was on my mind to ask this exact question. With an addition: Do privacy measures arouse suspicion to state security in the processing of visas and monitoring of who comes in and out of borders. I assume at least the US and China do an (automated) online background check for new visa applicants, and I suspect being unable to find data could raise a flag. The flag could be enough to trigger a much more heavy and personalised analysis of the applicant, and could result in a declined application considering how arbitrary these decisions often are.

This seems like such an important question that I too am surprised to have not found it discussed.


Im about to find this out personally. In a few months.

This seems possible. My visa application for further studies was rejected twice in the past 12 months. It might be a coincidence, but they only asked my name, and then rejected me.

Correlation does not imply causation / cum hoc ergo propter hoc


Related to this, many airlines now have face-scanning at the gate (after TSA and baggage claim) which replaces the staff looking at your boarding pass. On a flight a few months ago I declined to have my face scanned and they processed me by viewing my passport and boarding pass “manually.” Does anyone know if this would get flagged in any way? (a request to opt-out of face scanning)

Are you referring to domestic or international flight? I know it has become standard when going in and out of (international) customs for them to verify passport through facial recognition technology. I never knew I could opt out. I know you are talking about boarding a flight, in which case the difference is a private company (airline) is processing you instead of the state. In which case I do not see why you would be flagged by the state, when they already have your face through the passport technology. I see no reason why not allowing a private company to use the same technology on you would be in any way suspicious. If it was, it would only be insofar as they’d suspect you are not the person on the passport, in which case they can figure it out through applying the same technology they do at customs and/or security cameras and mapping it to their record of your passport.

It was a flight from a US airport to an EU destination. At the gate entry to the “air bridge” there were two cameras to the left and right with airline personnel nearby. As each passenger approached, they had to stop until an indicator lit up. After my request to opt-out, one of the airline employees walked over to the device and pushed a pause button. As I walked by, I saw the screen of the “device” and it was pairing the current photo with a known photo for each person. That suggested to me that they had a photo database from either the government or had purchased one from or another vendor. If the database was from the government, I wonder if there is a feedback loop to the government agency for aberrations. Maybe that is overthinking it but it seems like connections between government and corporations surface more often than I’d like.

This that I experienced was different that the face recognition happening at airports as part of the pilot program bring run by TSA. I still opt out of that program as I read it was optional. Looks like it is going nationwide, though: The TSA will use facial recognition in over 400 airports - The Verge

At re-entry into the US, I never ask to opt-out of anything with border patrol as they are a completely different entity vested with serious powers when compared to the TSA or some airline face-recognition scheme.

This practice is so aggravating. On a recent flight I declined to have my face scanned and they told me I couldn’t just scan my boarding pass normally, but the scanner was right there so I scanned it anyway. It worked just fine, they let me on the plane. I don’t know what kinds of incentives the airlines are giving their employees to get people’s faces scanned to where they will outright lie to you but it needs to stop.


I am about to find out if going for privacy (almost) all the way makes the foreign governments suspicious of me.

I intend to give truthful answer even if it will hurt my privacy. I think that if they feel like I am weaseling my way, they deny me application to entry.

I really dont know what to expect as I’ve never done this before.