Where do we draw the line between being cautious concerning online privacy and being paranoid?

I've been increasingly interested in online (and offline) issues concerning copyright, privacy, (digital) rights and the likes.
It started with reading articles about the Snowden documents, then watching documentaries like 'Aaron Swartz - The Internet's own boy' and all that.
Then I read the books The Boy Who Could Change The World - Aaron Swartz, 1984 - George Orwell, The Circle - Dave Eggers. I'm now currently struggeling through The WikiLeaks Documents - Wikileaks and Data and Goliath - Bruce Schneier.

Now I'm getting more politically active, and vocally raising my concerns with new laws and regulation.
I've gained interest in becoming a volunteer webdeveloper for Bits of Freedom (A Dutch non-profit EFF-like organization).
I've also been promoting the Dutch Pirate Party to my friends and family.
I've been talking more and more about (digital) privacy and online rights.
And I've started using a VPN.

So, last night my family and I where talking about the new rules the Obama administration enacted regarding the information that the NSA is allowed to share with other American intelligence agencies, and how this will affect us.
After diner I was reading on the couch and my brother asked what I was reading so I explained the book and read him a little bit of it. My brother looked kinda concerned (but I don't know for sure tho).

After that, I left the room to do something else. When I closed the door my brother and mother started talking. I don't know about what do.
So later that night I was like "Hey what where you talking about? About me?". This concerned my mother apparently, because she said like "are you suspicious or paranoid (she used the Dutch word 'achterdochtig') that we where talking about you?".
I did not mean it in that way, I was just curious because my brother looked kinda concerned.

But I get the picture that I'm painting about myself to others. Kinda like a 'nutjob that thinks the government is out to kill him.. ', although I certainly do not believe that in any stretch of the imagination. But it is the kind of people/thinking that is associated with 'privacy activists' or just people who stand up for online privacy.

So I began thinking to myself "Where does one draw the line between paranoid and being cautious concerning online privacy?".

What do you think?
Also, do you think that I am leaning towards the online privacy side, or the paranoid? I myself certainly don't consider myself paranoid, but I do have a (very) different perspective on the above mentioned issues compared to most people.


There's no way to draw that line because it tends to shift over time.

BITD they said people were paranoid if they used encryption instead of sending their mails in the clear. But as info leaked about how companies and governments were intercepting that data, all of a sudden that paranoia turned out to be justified and within a couple of years encryption became the standard.

The one thing to keep in mind is that info which seems harmless now may end up harming you in the future.
A century ago nobody in Europe minded having their religion listed in the government's databases alongside their name and address. Then the Nazis came to power. I don't think I need to tell you what they did with that info.

Or a less extreme example : Imagine that a total nutcase comes to power and you want to protest against what your new government is doing. If all the data is stored indefinitely, that government will have all kinds of info (historical as well as recent) that they can use to blackmail, silence or imprison anyone who they consider a threat to their power.

Also, obligatory :




Just limit your paranoia to when and where it matters. Don't waste it on fictious matters, but keep it close for serious things. If people wonder, cite maybe Bill Gates rather than Snowden and theyll probably be less alarmed. ;-)


Typo! But thanks for pointing that out, I've corrected it.

I think your family is just being concerned whether you are developing paranoia in general, and that is a sign of them caring about you. Now, I don't know the exact motivations you have, but maybe because it is not a subject of interest for themselves, they don't understand the intellectual curiosity you exhibit. Which is a distinction I think is important: intellectual considerations on any subject should not make you actually emotionally frightened or overly suspicious towards the motives of your immediate peers and family. Actual paranoia is, like anything else when it becomes unhealthy, noticably destructive for your life.

No, he's talking about the badly received prequel, where a ministry official dies in a work incident and they incorporate his brain into a robot with the goal of fighting thought crime on the street level in Detroit.

People talk a lot about what measures or programs they use, but methodology and routine hardly ever gets mentioned. Opsec will protect you from bad technology, but Technology will not protect you from bad technology. Consistency and rigor in the protections you choose to use is just as important as what you choose, if not more.

I was gonna go that route but I seem like an asshole on here most of the time, so was trying to scale back!

Haha, I hope I'm not wrong in assuming the culture here can accommodate robocop jokes!

Old fashioned people might say they have nothing to hide (which is bs), but most people don't simply understand 'the new world' so ofc in their eyes if someone's a bit suspicious about internet regulations today it's going to look like tinfoilery.
Truth is it's a new era and we should be cautious, nothing wrong with that.

For reference an old video; again, disregard the ad but the facts are true.

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I don't believe it's paranoia, as long as you separate it from the other spheres of your life. If work, love, sleep or friendships start to suffer because of it, that's when you start to wonder if you've gone too far.

Family is a different matter. For as long as you're not physically isolated and financially stable, always keep in mind what your family would say or think about certain actions of yours. Delay or completely suspend disclosure of beliefs, hobbies and interests if you sense that they would be a bit too controversial for your home environment to handle.

People who are becoming more and more security-conscious can, of course, be the typical paranoids who overreact and misinterpret everything they hear. These are unfortunately the ones who are over-represented in Hollywood, and most easy to associate with such activities. However, most often the increasingly conscious people are either ones that simply follow the news on what's happening in the world, or have personally experienced the mutation of technology (particularly the internet) in the past 20 years. You simply can't convey that experience to older folks. Just like our kids won't be able to convey their experience to us.

Anyway, we are moving from

"Anything you say can and will be used against you..."


"Anything you say, write, type, search (think?); ...any and all packets that pass through the volume of your home and personal devices can and will be used against you..."


"paranoia" is relative.
It's a word we use to label those that are abundantly more cautious than ourselves.

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If you have a microsoft account you can now see what info (Search, location, cortana) has been collected against it and delete it.

I've been using Windows 10 with a Microsoft account for a while on my Surface Book. I generally use Shutup 10 and install Firefox on my system but I was surprised at the number of times I must have used Edge and Bing as there was some data there.


Obvious disclaimer: not a doctor.
Paranoia is all about your own personal exclusiveness. You think you're exceptional and therefore you're targeted.
Concerns about online privacy are usually inclusive and universal. It's not just me who's targeted, we all are. Not just my personal data is being collected by every Tom, Dick and Harry (and their hamster), all of our data is being collected and used against us, either to prosecute any of us or to sell us shit we don't need.


I had a similar discussion with my parents a few months ago. Got a new Nexus 6P and my grandpa tried to use it but it was locked with my fingerprint. He started ranting about how he didn't even had a door on his bedroom and such. I promptly unlocked the phone and gave it to him: "It's not I'm locking it because of you, it's because of information safety". Both my parents asked me who would be interested in my stuff particularly and I explained what @CaptainChaos says: "

They understood that but yet they think I'm weird because I won't have a facebook page to send me funny cat pictures or whatever. I told them that's the benefits of the blissful ignorance, I can't have it anymore knowing all the things they don't.

i think i would be pretty alarmed if someone privacy aware would cite bill gates. maybe the EFF would be more reasonable.

I am not sure if i am in a position to actually draw a line between aware and paranoid, because a lot of the things once seemingly paranoid have turned out to be true.

The best place is probably a few miles before the point you consider people might be pushing too far. Leaves you a little ground to battle over.