What Do You Have to Do to Vanish Off-Grid?

By Sydney Butler / May 5, 2020

If you read Technadu on a regular basis, you know that there are a lot of different ways you can be tracked. Wherever you go, someone is always watching in some way. As much as we like being connected to the world around us, we still value our privacy.

Is there any way you could disappear from view? What would it take? Based on what we know about modern surveillance, this is what we think it would take to vanish off-grid.

Want to Vanish Off-Grid? Give Up Modern Electronics!

This is the most obvious one, but most people probably don't realize just how much spying our electronics do. So the only way you can hope to vanish off-grid is by getting rid of them.

By "modern" electronics, we're specifically referring to internet-connected smart devices. That's not just a smartphone these days. Your car, your toaster, and anything else a WiFi chip can be stuffed in could potentially gather info on you. We don't know what sort of back doors or hacks are at work out there.

So it means that if you wanted to disappear, the first thing you'd have to do is ditch all your personal electronics. In fact, it's not just internet-connected electronics. Dumbphones can still be used to track you. Cellular towers can ping your phone and get a general location. It's not as accurate as GPS but can nevertheless pin your position to a relatively small area.

You might even think you're safe if you aren't connected to the net, but if your device has WiFi or Bluetooth, it could be shaking hands with every other device it passes. Leaving digital breadcrumbs everywhere you go. So if you're going to be using anything electronic, it needs to be without any sort of wireless ability.

A Strictly Cash or Barter Approach

Case Full of Cash

Money makes the world go round, but these days it also betrays you every time you spend it. The world is going cashless, and so the flow of money can be tracked digitally. Even cryptocurrencies aren't as anonymous as many people would like you to believe. We all need money, but to vanish off-grid means changing your relationship with it radically.

The systems that track the flow of money are incredibly sophisticated, so if you want to drop off the radar, you have no choice but to change the way you make and spend money radically. There are even ways to track cash if there's enough motivation to do it in special cases - but for the average nobody who just wants to be invisible, liquid money is an excellent way to do it.

Before money, we had barter, and that's another way to remove your identity from your economic activity. In some cases, it may be possible to trade one good for another, without using the currency.

Stop Buying Stuff

Swiping Credit Card

If you really want to vanish off-grid, you're probably better off not buying anything at all if you can help it - which means you need to find a way to cut down on your consumerism. One way is to purchase products that are likely to last a long time, that can be repaired and that is unlikely to be replaced often. You may also have to make things rather than buy them if you want to be serious about not leaving any trail of purchases. It is an extreme measure, to be sure. However, even if you use cash or crypto, there's always a chance you can leave a trace of yourself through the movement of goods from other hands to yours!

Don't Leave Your DNA Anywhere

We've written an entire article dedicated to how your shed DNA can compromise your privacy, but the long and short of it is that DNA technology is incredibly cheap now. So cheap that police station can afford automated machines that will sequence the genes used to match identities to evidence. It is only going to become more pronounced in the future, with DNA profiling equipment becoming incredibly commonplace, which means that you'll have to be extra careful about when and where you drop DNA. Or simply give up, because it's basically impossible.

Hide Your Face

masked scammer

Public facial recognition technology has become mainstream enough that most people have heard about the controversy around government power, profiling, and bias in AI algorithms.

If you want to vanish from the grid, you should hide your face in public or when there's any camera in sight of (in principle) - Internet-connected or not! Remember that facial recognition can be applied to old footage as well, placing you at certain times and places. It's actually getting more complicated than merely hiding your face. It's also possible for AI systems to identify you by other means, such as your height, build, and gait. So the real trick is staying out of sight of electronic eyes as much as possible, and this becomes harder to do by the day.

You Can't Walk Around Outside at All, Actually


Speaking of electronic eyes, don't forget about high-power spy satellites in orbit above us. If you walk out in the open, they can see you. Right now, given their angle, they can't recognize a face - but combined with other data, if the powers that want to find you, there could be a way. Satellites aren't all they have either. High-altitude drones, more pedestrian drones, and just drones of all sorts, in general, give AI-powered camera systems more mobility and coverage than ever.

Move to the Middle of Nowhere

As you might have figured out by now, one of the best ways to vanish off the grid is to live somewhere you won't find modern information technology infrastructure. Check out our article about living off-grid for more information, but the bottom line is that even governments can't yet afford to pepper every inch of land with surveillance equipment. So the most effective way to cut down on your trail is to move away from where all the eyeballs are.

The Invisibility Impossibility: Can You Vanish Off-grid?

We'll come out and say it: it's not really practical to vanish off-grid. With enough effort and resources, it's not impossible. At least not yet. With every year that passes, surveillance technology gets better and better. At some point, the very idea of privacy and being able to hide your personal life from Big Brother may be laughable. The purpose of the information above isn't to help you achieve the feat of becoming invisible, but demonstrating just how far you'll now have to go not to be watched. It's a scary thought.

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