Sunday, November 22, 2009

How Do You Hide From the Internet? [Internet]


Wired writer Evan Ratliff spent 27 days in constant fear of getting caught as a small army of amateur and professional investigators hunted him. He had a bounty on his head and the Internet nipping at his heels.

Vanish, a combination of a manhunt and an experiment, began at 5:38 pm on August 14, 2009 as a bold headline on Wired proclaimed "Author Evan Ratliff Is on the Lam. Locate Him and Win $5,000." We would discover if someone could disappear in today's world, or whether the electronic trails from ATM, email, and cell phone usage would give him away.

Of course, in Evan's case it wasn't just a few concerned family members or police officers looking. It was any person on the Internet whose curiosity was aroused, either by the sheer challenge or by the bounty. Any and all traceable information would be shared over the next few weeks. Soon Evan's phone records, credit card statements, IP dumps, interviews with friends, and anything that his hunters could dig up would be posted on Twitter, Facebook, and Wired's own site.

The end goal for the hunters was to locate Evan, photograph him after giving the codeword "fluke," and then submitting that photo along with a codeword Evan would provide to Wired. And after 27 long days, someone did just that. Evan was caught.

You can read the entire tale here. As you do, consider whether Evan made any genuine mistakes or whether his capture was simply inevitable. Is there a way to disappear, without giving up travel ! and tech nology? How would you do it? [Wired]