The Truth About Privacy is more frightening than you can imagine
The guys behind the Truth book and other 'patriot' survival guides are not what they seem. They're not even Americans. But they're definitely scary.
You may not realize it, but every moment of every day, in every conceivable way, you are being watched.
Did you know the feds can turn on your webcam and remotely spy on you? That Google is logging every keystroke you type? That up to 17 surveillance cameras are filming you in every public space? That the White House is watching what you do on your computer and in your bedroom, and can order up a drone that will hunt you down and kill you if you make the wrong move?
I certainly didn’t know it. Not, at least, until I watched the 15-minute video at TruthAboutPrivacy.com, which revealed all of this scary stuff and much more. But for the low low price of just $27, I could buy a book that could tell me how to fix all of these privacy problems – and more.
Among other things, the book promised to reveal how to
* Keep my life free from hackers, phishers, and “government snopes”
* Erase my arrest record
* Get off the no-fly list
* Use military tactics to thwart a home invasion
* Avoid the hands and eyes of the TSA during airport security scans
* Stop anyone, including the NSA, from tapping my phones
* Keep unmanned drones from spying on me
Who could resist a sales pitch like that? So I bought a copy.
As soon as I clicked Add to Cart and added my credit card info, I was hit up by another sales pitch offering me 50 percent off on books telling me how to avoid identity theft, shop safely online, and “39 Ways Duct Tape Can Save Your Life.” (Truth be told, I was tempted by the last one.) When I skipped that, I got another pitch, this time offering 65 percent off. I skipped that, and got third pitch for 70 percent off. Finally, I was able to complete the transaction and downloaded a 74-page PDF file.
Books and liars
Let me start by saying it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Which is not to say it was any good. The “book” was mostly a collection of standard advice published elsewhere -- including some of the stuff you could find in my privacy book, which was published more than 7 years ago. Most of the information was vague and some of it rather outdated. (The only browsers mentioned are IE 8.0 and Firefox 3, if that gives you a clue.)
There was nothing in those 74 pages about how to avoid drones, keep the cops out of your house, erase your criminal history, debug your phone, or screw with the TSA, to name a few examples.
Here’s a representative quote. All flaws in grammar and spelling, not to mention logic, are found in the original:
The real threat to your privacy is not from the government. It’s from corporations, businesses and organizations that see your presence, activism or efforts as a threat to their violation of environmental laws, ethical or unethical practices and how they conduct business. There’s no logic, reason or reasonable person behind the laws and arrests being made today. When you can arrest and suspend a child for waving a pastry in class, sanity has left the building. Do you want to risk your life and livlihood with a system that responds to breakfast food as a terroristic threat?
The book also came with the promise of “12 months of expert privacy support” available 24/7 to help me implement the advice given within. So I sent some emails to the support address given on the TruthAboutPrivacy members page – which was for the customer care team at PatriotSurvivalPlan.com – about some of the stuff that was missing. Here’s one of the (non)answers I got:
Unfortunately I do not have the best answer for you. As a customer service representative we are only trained on the material that is provided in our Patriot Survival Plan modules.
What I can do for you is recommend one of our famous books Truth About Privacy, where you can find all the information you need when it comes to protecting your privacy.
In other words, to answer my questions about stuff that’s missing from their book, I need to buy their book. Fortunately, it comes with a 60-day money back guarantee.
Be afraid, be very afraid
TruthAboutPrivacy is just one of several high-scare Webfomercials run by the same folks who hawk the Patriot Survival Plan, which is trying to be a Bible for the Preppers movement (ie, people preparing for the collapse of America, if not the zombie apocalypse).
You can watch the whole 35-minute video here. It’s an eye opener. Apparently our economy is doomed and we are about to become rent boys for Russia, China, and Brazil.
Is he trying to say we’ll end up penniless or penis-less? Either way, it’s pretty scary.
You know that crazy uncle who shows up for Thanksgiving dinner, gets a couple of drinks under his belt, and starts cutting loose about how the [fill-in-the-blank] are ruining America and it’s time to take our country back, by force if necessary? That’s this site, only multiplied by about 1000.
They are the same guns-gold-and-god crowd that went apes**t about the Y2K crisis – I mean, literally, the same people. And they look a lot like these guys:
By the end of the video, if you get that far, you’ll be tempted to grab a gun and head for the hills. But not before whipping out your wallet and dropping close to a hundred bucks on survival manuals.
The scariest thing? These guys totally own the SEO about their product. I couldn’t find any information about these “programs” that wasn’t directly from the company or an affiliate. And that’s why I decided to dedicate this blog post to them. You can thank me later.
From Romania with love
So who are these guys, exactly?
The Patriot Survival Guide video is narrated by a trim, clean-cut American-sounding guy in his 30s calling himself Matt Stevens. That’s also the name on the domain registration for PatriotSurvivalPlan.com. But I can find no other record of this person on the InterWebs – none, zip, nada – and really, I tried. Every reference is to either his Patriot Survival sites or to a former NFL safety of the same name who played for the New England Patriots.
Generally speaking, if you’re a real human doing business across the InterWebs, you leave behind digital footprints – a LinkedIn page, a Twitter account, a blog, something. As far as I can tell this guy has nothing. So my best guess is that Matt is a fictional character being played by an actor.
TruthAboutPrivacy.com is registered to an Andrew Hasna of Moo! Media Group, which claims to be based in Toronto and is incorporated in Delaware using the same private mailbox address as “Matt Stevens” at Patriot Survival Plan.
Calls to the number listed in TruthAboutPrivacy’s DNS record failed to go through. I left a message for Andrew at Moo! Media Group’s 800 number; I’m still waiting for a callback. Like the elusive “Matt,” Moo Media’s Andrew leaves almost no traces on the Web. But LinkedIn lists an Andrew Hasna who’s VP of sales for a marketing company in Romania named WinArrow, and I’m 99 percent sure it’s him.
According to LinkedIn, Moo! Media Group appears to have a handful of employees based in Romania, but none in Canada. A former colleague of Hasna’s at WinArrow in Romania, Gianni Lofti, is listed as COO of Moo! Media. The address listed in the DNS records for TruthAboutPrivacy and for some of the various Patriot sites is the same one used by one of Lofti’s other business entities, Romance Homes. Given the fact that these two guys share both an employer and address, they are almost certainly the folks behind Moo! Media – and, thus, those scare-mongering survival sites.
So, to recap: Those “patriots” who are so concerned about the future of America are most likely Romanians pretending to be Canadians doing business in Delaware.
Paranoia strikes deep
Personally, I think that trying to whip undereducated but heavily armed people into a frenzy of fear and paranoia for the purpose of making a buck is immoral and dangerous.
Still, if you want to separate whack jobs from their money, that’s your business. And if you love nothing better than to stockpile weaponry and gnaw on beef jerky while compiling conspiracy theories about the gummint, well, it’s a free country. (And yes, last time I checked, it was still a free country.)
Fortunately for me, I now know the Truth About Privacy, so I recognize when I’m being conned.
Here’s a hint. If you believe anything you see on any of these sites, you are.
Got a question about social media or privacy? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he'll make something up). Follow him on Twitter: @tynanwrites. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to's, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.
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