Allow Me To Introduce My Friend, Privacy

For no particular reason I’ve decided to talk about privacy and the internet. There are times when people have a legitimate reason for wanting to mask or protect their identity. Perhaps you’re in China and wish to share information the government would rather you didn’t. I’m sure we could all come up with a list of 100 reasons why someone would wish to mask their online identity so I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

So how does one go about that? Well, the folks over at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) — who actually serve as an effective and successful role model for other “grassroots” sorts of action groups — offer to the world a anonymous internet via a product called Tor. In a nutshell, Tor bounces your internet traffic across several different servers so by the time it gets to the recipient they have no way of tracing it back to the source. It’s an effective tool for those who wish to hide who and where they are.

How Tor Works

Personally, I approached the problem a different way. I had a need to make it seem like I was back in the good old USA even though I now live overseas. Some sites ban you or serve you up a different experience if they detect you’re coming from different areas. In my case, I was concerned that my online banking might get cut off when my bank saw me logging in from overseas. Fortunately for me, someone was kind enough to let me keep my old desktop in their home connected to the internet. Whenever I need to be Bill USA Rini I use a program that comes with Microsoft XP called Remote Desktop. If you’re running XP it’s probably already installed ( click Start, click All Programs, click Accessories, click Communications, and then click Remote Desktop Connection). When I’m on my Mac I can use the Mac version of it as well and connect to my XP computer and have XP running in a little window. I simply fire up the program and tell it where my XP computer is in the US and it gives me a login screen. I login and whamo, it’s just like I’m sitting in front of my computer back in the US. There are other good programs that let you do something similar. One that I’ve used is TightVNC and have always had good experiences with it.

If you don’t have someone willing to let you keep a computer connected to their network you can always purchase such services in the same way you can rent a web server from a hosting company. For instance, a quick google for “dedicated servers uk” pulled up a company called RedStation who rents servers starting at £79 a month. I don’t know anything about that particular company so don’t take that as a recommendation but if you use Google and do a little research you can find what you’re looking for.

Another area where privacy is a big concern is in banking. While the US certainly has a safe and reliable banking infrastructure, it doesn’t always suit every citizen’s needs. Living overseas I already have a non-US bank account but many Americans don’t.

Setting up a non-US bank account can be difficult but it’s certainly not impossible. I can’t possibly cover every situation pertaining to everyone but in general there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Having an offshore bank account is perfectly legal for US citizens as long as they declare any interest or investment income. Don’t try to avoid taxes! There are also other IRS regs regarding having an offshore bank account that you’ll need to adhere to as well.

2. Ask your current bank to draft a letter of introduction. Most banks will draft a letter for you saying something along the lines of “Mr. XXXXX has been a customer of this institution and has satisfactorily maintained an account since XXXX. His current account balances are XXXX.” This goes a long way in helping you open up an foreign bank account.

3. Many banks have $10,000+ deposit requirements which may work for many people but you can shop around and find lower deposit requirements.

Here’s a list of banks you might want to check out if you have an interest in setting up an overseas bank account.

Barclays International
Standard Bank
Allied Irish
First Caribbean

To learn more about offshore banking check out Wikipedia.

Lastly, many people like to keep a mailing address outside of the US. A quick search on Google should be able to provide you with some PO box services.