Column : Privacy is a statement.Feb 07
“Privacy is dead” It’s one of those boilerplate expressions you hear whenever there is a discussion about the NSA sniffing bits along some transatlantic cable, or a scandal about a flash light application that shares all your contacts with a Chinese scammer. Perhaps people are right. Keeping your data to yourself is becoming harder and harder to do. Marketeers, Governments, applications, devices, .. they all seem to be out to track and trace our every move and share whatever we do with the world.
Google knows all about my emails, Facebook knows everything about my life. My Cellphone is playing little snitch to some Canadian marketing agency in their plan to help push targeted advertising my way. Why should I bother with privacy ?
“Why should we bother” Well : you can ask yourself that question. The only way to remain untraced these days is to crawl into a cave in the centre of the woods and never come out.
But when I look at most people around me … they seem to be doing the opposite. Not only don’t they have a problem with their privacy being invaded .. they seem to rationalize the very invasion of their privacy into something trivial.
“ They can watch me , I have nothing to hide” .
If that were to be true .. why bother wearing clothes to work in the morning. Let’s rip off the curtains in the bedroom so everybody can see your “lateral aerobics” on Sunday afternoon.
Lets take away all the doors of the restrooms so we can poop and talk face to face at the same time .. You said you don’t have anything to hide .. right ?
You see, that is where the “nothing to hide’ statement” breaks down. Our personal privacy makes us who we are. Whether you are pooping out the longest turd in history OR shooting heroine up your arm .. you will close the door of the toilet stall nevertheless.
You don’t have intimate conversations with your wife from opposite sides of the football-pitch… You don’t scratch your lady parts in front of your boss when they are itchy ?
How about shouting out what you make a year to your co-workers ? No ? See .. you DO have things to hide. Personal things. And that personal privacy defines you as a person, as an individual .. and not a member of a mindless herd.
‘I’m not doing anything wrong’ is another slippery slope. Because “Right” or “Wrong” are relative to whatever situation you are in. Take the family that googled “Fertiliser” and “pressure cooker” on a Sunday afternoon. They had a swat team break down their door and arrest them on suspicion of trying to blow stuff up. Did they do anything wrong ?
Try doing a paper on Fundamentalism, cancel your life insurance and book a one way plane ticket to the US. You will end up with a lot of questions to answer at best OR a cavity search before you leave the airport. Why ? You’re not doing anything wrong. But the lubed up glove of the border patrol officer sure makes you wonder if something might be ‘up’.
“What can they do with that info anyway” You would be amazed how you can puzzle the most trivial of data together into one giant revealing blob of information about your interests, your habits, your life. And if you are lucky , the picture they paint will be correct. What they DO with that picture is completely out of your hands .. But suppose they get it WRONG ? What if taking that information out of perspective, or crunching the data wrong will depict you as somebody chronically addicted to gambling. What if your future boss thinks you are an unreliable alcoholic because he saw those 5 public pictures of you at this embarrassing party. If the information they collect gets misrepresented, distorted or manipulated it can mean a whole lot of trouble. And the more information that’s out there , the higher the odds of that happening.
“I don’t care if they are watching”. Maybe you don’t. But that depends on WHO is watching ? You might not have a problem having your internet traffic logged by the government who want to “keep you safe”. But what about that dingy kid in the corner of the internet café who is sniffing the local wifi network for dirty pics and juicy urls ? What about that stalky sys-administrator at work who is going through your logs to find out what flowers you like. ( It’s Valentines day soon , creeps need to get laid too) Are you sure you want to be this “open” with them ? Are you sure you don’t want to keep some stuff away from nosy snoopers ?
So take care of your privacy. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it is JUST the government that is trying to watch you. For every NSA agent looking at your personal data … there are 10 marketeers trying to analyse your habits and e 20 more script kiddies, hackers, key loggers and mallware bots trying to get their hands on your information. You might want to disclose everything to the authorities .. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it to everybody else.
So lets make privacy a statement. I protect my information, my communications and my data NOT because I’m doing anything wrong .. but because I’m NOT doing anything wrong. I’m exercising my basic right of being my own private free individual. I’m not a felon, not a convict. My bedroom does not get searched every two weeks by guards . I’m not in jail. I am free , free to choose NOT to disclose my personal information to ANYONE who queries it.
So protect your right to your privacy as a basic right of being a free individual. Wear your encryption skills like a medal of your techno-skills. Be smart and challenge every request for your personal data. Go tell Runkeeper to sod off when it wants to see all your friend info on Facebook. Ditch applications/websites that needlessly want to log or track you. Share what YOU want to share. Your personal privacy is not only a basic part of your personal freedom .. its a statement : The statement that YOU are FREE.