Why Should I Care About Privacy?

Why Should I Care About Privacy?

Ever since Edward Snowden starting to leak like a full diaper (Cryptome says he’s only released ~1% of his 58,000 pages), people have been discussing privacy as an everyday thing.  Some people actually care more about it, and are taking steps to try and stay out of the all-encompassing NSA net.  Others seem to spout the same two objections:

“I don’t have anything to hide, so I don’t care if they want to spy on me, especially if it makes us more safe.  Let ’em!”

“I doubt they’re even looking at me or my web history.  They have bigger things to worry about.”

I’m going to explain to you—using logical, factual arguments—why these two objections are ridiculous.  Do you have the intellectual honesty to read the rest of this article?  Or is your cognitive dissonance going to kick in and send you on your way, content in your superior knowledge that I’m paranoid?

Daniel Solove has an excellent article on this.  It’s must-read, in fact (right after you’re finished here, of course).   The logic for the anti-privacy position goes something like this:  If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you shouldn’t care if you’re being monitored; if you are doing something wrong, then you should be exposed, and therefore it’s a good thing that they are monitoring so they can catch your terrible acts.

Where this goes wrong is before the question is even asked.  It’s predicated on a simple misunderstanding of what privacy is, and why it’s important.  According to this “logic,” you should be willing to turn over your credit card statements, your library history, your web history, your email, your texts, instant message conversations, snail mail, financial situation, health information (including all your medications, care history, and all the stuff you tell your therapist), the contents of your computer, where you drive, who you talk to, and even where you are, every second of every day, to people you do not know, so they can store all of that information indefinitely, for purposes that you will never know the validity of.  Are you willing to do that?  You’ve already done it.  How’s it feel?

Some things aren’t anyone’s business but yours.  Is there anything that you would not feel comfortable posting in the comment section of this blog about yourself?  The government already stored that information.  They’re using it against you.  They’re holding on to it as leverage.

Information is power.  Every shred of information about you is used for something.  Grocery stores use the information about your purchases on their loyalty program to track what you buy and target ads for you.  They’re socially engineering you to buy more stuff, and they’re willing to take off 10% of an item’s price because you’ll still pay 90%, and that’s money you would not have spent without that ad.  Hulu asks you “is this ad relevant?”  They’re not asking because they care what you like.  They’re saying, “Help us socially engineer you better by showing you ads that you’ll pay attention to.”  Your car’s Onstar reports where you are every second you’re driving.  Your phone is like a homing device for anyone who wants to find you, as well as a running tally of all your interactions (your calendar, texts, emails, calls…). Your webcam can turn on without your knowledge.  Think I’m overdosing on tin foil?  Think again.  You can remotely turn on your webcam yourself.  Hackers can do it too.  It’s called RATing.  (Anyone can learn.  See YouTube.)  Do you really think the government can’t do this if some 13-year-old on YouTube can?  Some apps, like Facebook’s Messenger, turn on your microphone and monitor things you’re saying even when you aren’t using the app.  And guess what?  You agreed to it when you clicked “Accept” on the terms of use.

Who gets that info?  Who is using it?  Do you know? Every second of every day, you are either on a camera, being tracked, being monitored, or a combination of all three.  Everything you do, everything you say, everywhere you go.  Someone is watching you.  Even in your own home, while you watch TV or surf the web or read email.  All that information is used to manipulate you.  Buy this.  Think that.  Go here.  Eat there.  Act this way.  Believe these things.  Your decisions become simply extensions of the program you are subjected to every second of your life.  Who needs crazy conspiracy theories about implants and hypnosis?  Simply look around.  You’re in the middle of a very complex, very sophisticated game where every decision you make—and maybe even some of the thoughts you think—is being engineered, or at least someone is attempting to engineer it.  Whether you know it or not—or choose to believe it—if you do not care about your privacy, you are a sheep at the whim of your masters.

As many privacy experts explain, privacy is not secrecy.  Privacy is not just for hiding bad acts.  What about those in oppressive regimes who have to hide their efforts at free speech?  FYI, if you live in America, you’re in a regime that is growing more oppressive by the day.  Not only is he government collecting all this information, but they will not tell you how they are using it.  After 9/11 we all talked about “information sharing,” and we were told that “if only the agencies could have shared information, we maybe could have prevented 9/11.”  And the people said, “Well, then we should ALL SHARE.”  Now the IRS knows your medical history, and the government is matching up your prescription history with your firearm ownership.  Ask the citizens of New York.  They have 30 days to turn in their firearms.  Is it the government’s business what pills you take?  The government thinks it is.

There’s also the issue of distortion.  All of this information collected may give a false picture to the people who are staring into your personal life.  One woman’s home was searched because she Googled the term “pressure cooker.”  So she could cook with one.  Solove uses the example of a novelist who might be doing research on cooking methamphetamine because one of his characters in his book will be a meth cooker.  Students studying criminal psychology might be doing searches on power rape and/or sexual mutilation.  You might use any one of these words in an email.  And none of it is “wrong,” but the government will respond to it nonetheless.  Do you want to be the one explaining that the reason you put the words “obama assassination plot” into Google is because you wanted to verify a stupid rumor you heard at work?  You might think that you’ll just curb your search history then.  You won’t search for potentially dangerous terms.  In doing so, you acquiesce a little more of your freedom.  You stop doing things you have a right to do because you are afraid of the consequences.  That, my friends, is oppression.

This is the world you live in.  Is this all right with you?  As the noose tightens, are you comfortable with the government being able to pull a file on your life that literally tells them everything about you?

Remember, information is power.  The government, theoretically, is OF the people, BY the people, FOR the people.   You tell me…if the government holds all the information, who’s holding all the power?

PS: Go read the article by Daniel Solove.  It’s long, and it’s beyond worth it.  If you still don’t care about your privacy after that, then I hope you enjoy your oppressive fishbowl, comrade.



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  • hockeydad says:

    I spent many years building databases for marketing companies and started way back then in masking my data, IP, computer names etc. I use one computer at home for stuff I know is tracked and use other’s where I can change NIC’s, mask the IP etc. for just about everything else. I’ve gone to having most of my deliveries made to work’s main office. Although, my buddy can tell you it’s best to warn them when your having a case of ammo sent.

    When cell phones first came out my mother (a telcom engineer) said that they would end up being used by big brother. She referred to them as a collar and said if the government tried to pass a law where people had a chip that tracked them all day, people would go nuts. But sell it as a cool, hip device and we’d line up. Boy how right she was! Guess that’s why you can’t reach my folks on the cell. It’s only on when they want to call you.

    Most people are already caught up in the system but try and keep your kids out!! Marketing companies buy data from everywhere! I used to build a database using over a billion data records each month. It held over 350 million names, addresses and 5000 attributes. I could track an individual from the day the graduated high school till their death for about 90% of the population and that was back in 2004.

    Do I have something to hide, maybe, but the more I can keep to myself the less I have to worry about.

    As for Facebook and those social sites….get off them they allow too many people into your life.

  • ALman says:

    It appears as though we’re all becoming “Trumans” (as in “The Truman Shaow).

  • Merle says:

    1984 came a bit late…..,,


  • GWB says:

    Your webcam can turn on without your knowledge. Think I’m overdosing on tin foil? Think again. You can remotely turn on your webcam yourself.

    Except the article you link to doesn’t show you how to remotely turn on your camera – except by installing a program that specifically opens our computer to the internet. And, your camera has to be turned on in the first place. (You can disable the camera in a lot of BIOSes.)

    I don’t disagree that a hacker might be able to remotely enable your camera, but that article didn’t show how. It also helps IMMENSELY if you simply don’t use an account with administrator privileges for your everyday usage.

    Well-written post, Kit. And vitally important.

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