Lazy Saturday long read: trying to vanish in the digital age

Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Because you’re not going anywhere for a while. Wired has a great article up right now that reminds me of Wired magazine content in their glory days in the early 2000s. The object of the piece is to examine the feasibility of disappearing completely in the digital age. They gave writer Evan Ratcliff a month’s head start to plan his means of vanishing, then set the entire internet on him once he’d executed his plan.

I’m only about halfway through it right now but it’s an easy recommendation if, like me, you’re lolling on the couch, sipping coffee and browsing the net. The conclusion is not too difficult to imagine; I haven’t read it yet, but I’m guessing that some circumstance or minor slip-up caused Ratcliff to reveal his location — an emergency cash withdrawal, a particular item delivered to a PO Box, or something like that. After that it was just a matter of time before those on his trail ferreted him out.

Of course, it’s one thing to track a person used to living and working online, with known habits and telltale tendrils extending all over both the real and virtual region. I suspect that if you took the measures he took (which you can read in the article), the trail would eventually fade; after a year of living on cash, under a fake name, and being paid under the table, it would be nearly impossible to locate someone without some serious inside information.

[photo: Joe Pugliese/Wired]