Privacy is Dead but Absolute Surveillance Is Not King Yet

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I am one of the those “weird” people who stopped using Facebook. The truth is found the excuse of moving to another place as a reason to actually stop using the social media platform when others would do the opposite. I quit Facebook because I just didn’t feel comfortable with one company owning that much personal information about me. It’s one thing to know someone’s name, phone number, and address but social media platforms such as Facebook are more concerned about “knowing” you in a way that goes beyond the superficial details of your driver’s license. Facebook probably knows more about some people more than actual people with personal relationships know people. Facebook can predict life events, predict your politics, and can surround you with media that it knows you will like.

Collecting data from users is like a modern gold rush for companies of the internet. It’s so valuable that the common currency that we pay companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and many others for their “free” services that collectively cost billions in development and upkeep is with the nebulous thing called personal data. The selling of personal information at this point in time is technically illegal depending on which country you live in and even now the legality of having personal data being kept private either through laws protecting data from being taken from companies for government organizations use and personal private internet use is an ongoing battle. Specifically, the legality of ISP’s in the US being able to sell internet browsing data will set the precedence for many other countries including our own and is in the process of being passed and repealed. That’s not even mentioning the government surveillance programs within government organizations like the NSA in the US where unhinged gluttony of data collecting uses the excuses of “if you’ve got nothing to hide, why hide your personal data?” or “it’s for the greater good of everyone” or even “it’s inevitable so embrace it”. Many other western countries also have their NSA equivalents combing through everyone’s personal browsing and communication data looking for the boogeyman of a terrorist threat.

Maybe total surveillance is an inevitability and maybe I’m just a paranoid person whose precaution with keeping some details of my life offline is a feeble and useless attempt considering companies like Amazon, Netflix and Reddit already know every interest I have in hobbies, entertainment, and products and maybe every government surveillance government in the world has a mountain of data on me confirming that yes, indeed, I’m not a terrorist but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. That also doesn’t mean that I have to live like a caveman (or pre 1990, same thing right?) but it does mean that we should support some semblance of privacy because allowing one entity to have all the data you can provide is something worth taking precautions for and even fighting against. At this moment in time, we are at a tipping point where the dystopian reality of total surveillance is possible but not entirely realized. We should do this for the simple reason that we shouldn’t put complete trust in people who would buy, sell, and collect personal data to have everyone’s best interest at heart.

Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2012/04/24/social-media-privacy-a-contradiction-in-terms/#614d9c617c45

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-cohen/privacy-risk-with-social-_b_13006700.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/us-fcc-internet-privacy-legislation-marketing-ads-canada-1.4046512

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/trump-sign-repeal-broadband-internet-privacy-rules-1.4049282

http://jlpp.org/blogzine/mass-government-surveillance-the-price-of-a-secure-nation/

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4 thoughts on “Privacy is Dead but Absolute Surveillance Is Not King Yet

  1. I don’t think you’re being paranoid. It’s scary to think about how a company could essentially “own” so much of us by how much it knows about our personal lives and habits.

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  2. Interesting thoughts, Melbourne. After getting my first smartphone, I was hesitant to download apps because of all the “permissions” they need to work. Why does Facebook need access to my texts?!? Eventually I gave in, and now I don’t think twice about it. But I wonder if that’s a good thing. Like blowing through those incessant iTunes user agreements just to get on with my day. Who knows what I’m agreeing to. I’d argue that our generation has been desensitized to privacy concerns for the sake of fitting in. With so much happening online nowadays, the people who avoid apps and social media for privacy concerns get left out. The least tech-savvy people I know are the same who refuse to disclose their personal information. Nowadays, access is contingent upon disclosure, so they have no choice but to open up or opt-out. Personally, I’ve tried to convince myself that I’ve got nothing to hide, but I wonder if that’s just a rationalization. Maybe the anti-social media population are actually ahead of the game, or know something we don’t.

    An interesting aside: there’s an app out there that tries to confuse advertisers trying to pin us down for targeted marketing. Google has actually banned it as a chrome extension!

    http://www.cbc.ca/radio/spark/spark-270-1.2889937/if-you-hate-online-ads-just-use-the-age-old-tactic-of-obfuscation-1.2889963

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    1. It does seem that the only real way to protect privacy is to completely unplug but I wouldn’t suggest that’s what people should do. I value privacy but not to the extent where completely abandoning technology is an option. What my concern is the slippery slope of companies and government organizations being able to sell, collect and compile every single digital action people have taken and using that information to undisclosed ends. It almost sounds ridiculous, like out of a Black Mirror episode or Sci-fi movie, but that’s the reality for the purposes of fighting against the selling of personal information and protecting net neutrality. It’s not that people should worry that their information is being collected, (it is by everyone) but rather it’s the possible reality where an organization, government or private, can organize and collect complete profiles of everyone in the world and then use that information in undisclosed nefarious ends. Imagine a government being able to censor and manipulate it’s citizens if it’s able to have access to not only the browsing history of it’s citizens but the technology and data from private companies that enable such things like predictive targeting marketing.

      What I’m trying to say is that an undisclosed, anonymous, non-warrant accessible, complete online+offline personal profile of every person, further enabled by statistics, mass and private surveillance, and prediction based technologies is probably pretty close to the description of a theoretical ultimate tool of government control. Not to say that government is inherently evil, just that anything resembling that worst case scenario should be prevented and protecting what little privacy we have left is vital part of that.

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