February Book Review
Your Privacy & Security
By John Minges
$11.95 Suggested Retail
275 pages, paper back
The Network is full of talented people, and many are so modest that we never become aware of their expertise. That was one reason I was so pleased when member John Minges shared copies of his book, Your Privacy & Security, with us last month. While most Network members are prepared to counter physical threats, a good primer on personal security and its related concern of protecting personal privacy is an essential facet in “failing” the victim selection process a criminal uses to choose victims.
By way of introduction, Minges writes that he expects some of the privacy threats he will outline to surprise the reader, but adds that his goal is to also provide solutions “to help the average person be proactive rather than only reactive when it comes to your privacy and security.”
He adds that it is not his intent to motivate through fear, but rather that the “factual information” outlined will encourage the reader to take responsibility for safety and security and make awareness and preparation a way of life. Throughout the chapters dealing with various invasive government and criminal forays into our privacy, Minges urges alertness to a wide variety of threats.
On the topic of government intrusions, Minges suggests that privacy is stolen from babies at birth, with DNA scans and records storing the very genetic code of the individual born under normal medical care. Large data storage facilities, he charges, take tremendous liberties with individual data gathered, whether by the Department of Homeland Security or private enterprise selling information like financial data or energy consumption to which they have no right.
Minges introduces protective steps by explaining that so long as the individual uses a phone, credit card, the Internet and other services, opting out is not entirely realistic. Instead, limit details you provide business and government to the bare minimum, learn how best to use the consumer credit reporting companies and determine if you should institute a “security freeze” to restrict lender access to your information permanently (obviously not a great idea if you may need to apply for credit, he advises). He also identifies the largest data brokers and explains how to request a freeze on sharing any data they have about you, adding that they are under no legal obligation to comply. He recommends services that actually respect privacy, including search engines, and other usual data mining suspects. Outside the Internet, other intrusions come from store shopper loyalty cards, phone solicitors and offers from strangers who mean you no good. He advises a low-profile personal life style without asking his readers to abandon modern conveniences.
Discussing home security, the author starts with safe property selection for home buyers, highlighting a number of potential hazards the seller is never going to suggest you consider. The list of environmental hazards to guard against is interesting, and he even suggests asking if fracking has been done in the region, whether the property is close to rail lines or highways over which hazardous materials are transported, how to test for radon gas and other dangers.
Minges gives a good introduction to home insurance as well as techniques to secure your home and belongings against theft, explaining how most home burglaries are committed and explaining what a security system can do and cannot do and how to get the most out of an alarm system and service.“You need to realize that you and you alone are responsible for your personal security. You cannot and should not count on someone else coming to your rescue, as much as you would like to think this might happen. It is a simple fact that law enforcement cannot be everywhere at one time, and criminals know more than most what the response time might be if an alarm is activated,” he accounts.
Minges’ recommendation to shore up your home’s exterior doors with the added protection of an ultra-secure storm door is a good example of the kinds of advice he offers in Your Privacy & Security. Mail box security, fencing, lighting, driveways, garages, wireless remote openers, and other security considerations are outlined, as well as suggestions about securing less obvious weak points in the home’s perimeter. While most of our readers recognize a safe’s value in keeping guns safe from theft, the author also explains limitations on fire protection and various levels of moisture protection available in the higher end safes.
Home safety includes knowing how to reduce domino effect troubles stemming from natural disasters, Minges suggests. Do you know how to cut off your home’s electricity, telecommunications, gas and water, he asks? Recommendations include what could be called an emergency-cutoff multi tool, and while Minges stresses early in Your Privacy & Security that by recommending commercial products he isn’t necessarily endorsing them, the citations to various product’s websites give the reader a good starting point in filling in gaps in their security and safety plans by showing where some of the solutions can be found.
Your Privacy & Security also addresses risks and hazards common to vacation travel, starting with keeping your absence from home secret, hotel safety, considerations for overseas travelers and more. This is a lot more in depth than remembering to cancel the newspaper delivery, in fact, he points out that in cancelling newspaper delivery you’ve let about half a dozen people know that your home is likely going to be empty for the designated period of time. Ask the neighbors to bring in the papers, pick up leaflets the solicitors leave, and maybe even move a thing or two around to mimic an occupied home.
In wrapping up Your Privacy & Security, Minges summarizes the basic human needs of air, water, food and shelter, using each as the subhead for several paragraphs that discuss how much is needed and giving ideas on how to be sure you have what you need if “the lights go out.” Despite the popular hype given to the concept of bugging out, he favors hunkering down in your familiar environment over running away whenever practical.* He goes on to outline considerations ranging from sanitation to medical needs, as well as mentioning when leaving the disaster area may be actually necessary and concerns related to bugging out that will need to be addressed.
Closing with a reminder of a theme that is woven through the book, Minges points out that with over 40% of the United States residents dependent on government assistance, there are simply not enough resources left to take care of everyone in a full-scale disaster. You have got to be able to assure your own survival, he urges.
Unlike so much of the literature that we read, Your Privacy & Security is not a firearms and self-defense book. As such, it is able to raise an extremely wide array of concerns and suggest a lot of measures to shore up our privacy and provide the security to avoid needing self defense at all. It is full of good reminders, new ideas, and it is well worth the time to read and follow up on research citations that he includes.
*On a related topic, I recently read a blog post by another Network member discussing sheltering in place. It dovetails very well with John Minges’ observations, and together should help us all plan and make better preparations to get through natural disasters, civil disturbances and other dangers. See http://www.itsadisaster.net/enews201501.html#spotlight