Reporting from: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Privacy rights seem to be a lost art these days. In their quest to totally make you their slave, desperate governments are working to collect as much data on you as possible. As a perpetual traveler, I’ve escaped much of the nonsense that alphabet soup agencies like the NSA have thrust onto the average American slave. Yet even here in countries with greater personal freedom, privacy rights can sometimes be set aside. I shared with you earlier this morning about the wide surveillance state in Thailand. You can’t use wi-fi in most establishments – from the airport to McDonald’s – without entering your passport number. Ditto for getting a Thailand SIM card for your phone. The Thai government, in all of its imperiousness, has made it so that almost nothing you do is anonymous. Unfortunately, that trend is spreading. While nowhere as bad as The Land of the Free, privacy rights around the world are on the decline. Just the other day, I landed in Kuala Lumpur and purchased a Malaysia SIM card while waiting for my luggage at the carousel. As is the case in a number of countries now, the person selling you said SIM card is supposed to ask for your passport and record your personal information on the forms associated with your purchase.
Heaven forbid you’d be able to make a phone call without someone knowing who is calling whom. How dare the government not know who is using their nation’s telephone system. First of all, I urge you to consider your privacy rights when you’re considering where to expatriate. Now, I’m a big fan of Kuala Lumpur – it’s on my list of most livable cities in Southeast Asia. And I’m not saying you should cross it in particular off your list because your SIM card purchase is recorded. What I am saying is that if you believe finding ways to protect your privacy rights is important, you should consider it. As an aside, I’ve bought SIM cards right over the counter in the Philippines, Vietnam, and elsewhere in Asia. More importantly, however, is the idea that having one passport really does make you a slave to a single government. When that government has built a massive data center that holds several exabytes (quintillions of bytes) of your personal data, being a slave is a bad thing. It’s never a good idea to jump from the frying pan into the fire. I’ve been saying that you could practically throw a dart at a map and hit a place with greater personal freedom than the United States. As my friend Jeff Berwick said at an event in Dallas, Texas several months ago, “we might as well have held the event in North Korea”. So while the idea of data collection in Malaysia is frustrating, it’s still worlds behind the draconian measures coming out of the USSA. Having a second passport can help, among other things, protect your privacy rights. If you’re not ready to completely expatriate and wish to maintain your US citizenship, you would be well served to use your second passport for sensitive situations like this. The government’s fallacious argument of “if you have nothing to hide…” is irrelevant. Governments have the power to change their laws at any time. And US Presidents since Harry Truman have relied on large numbers of Executive Orders to bypass any legislative checks and balances. Heck, Barack Obama recently issued an Executive Order banning the importation of rubies and jade from Myanmar. What you do legally today can be stored in a million square foot data center and come back to haunt you after the Reichstag fire. I’ve been outspoken in my advocacy for having a passport from a small country. Do you think Andorra cares who you’re calling, even if they got your phone data from another country? Of course not. The massive surveillance state and loss of privacy rights is just one reason why the United States is falling in every quantitative rating possible. From freedom of the press to quality of life to freest economy, the USSA is falling. Soon, the only value Americans will have left is the ability to claim citizenship in “the best country on earth”, as they recite the propaganda they’ve been taught. Having a second passport is not only a way to open up the possibility of expatriation, but also as a freedom tool for dual citizens. Being able to pull out the best passport for each situation is just another way to practice the Nomad Capitalist mantra of “go where you are treated best”. While it may be easier to enter Malaysia or any number of other countries with a US passport, that doesn’t mean you want your every move tracked as an American rather than a Paraguayan or Monegasque or Maltese citizen.