The Profound Importance of Privacy
To begin with the incredibly obvious: there’s a lot of information you have out in the online world. And I don’t even mean just your tweets. If you, like me, have ever been taken aback by Google Now reminding you of your flight on the day of your commute (because all you did was get your ticket emailed to yourself), you probably took a step back to think on how far you are being watched online. Is my alarm data being collected? My exercise patterns? My heart rate, when I check it? The ‘private’ messages I send? My most frequently contacted people? Where I work? When I leave the house to work? If I live alone? For the last three questions, answers to these could clearly let anyone watching know when to rob your house.
To continue with the obvious: you’re being watched. Right now. The Internet is under all kinds of surveillance, as leaked by a certain former CIA systems analyst. But, that’s nothing for good people like you to worry about, is it? You’re not really organizing/participating in anything illegal or evil. You just do good things like chat with your friends, transact business and look for cute cat videos online. Perhaps the occasional movie download from your favorite torrent site, or maybe something exciting on Pornhub once in a while. But who doesn’t, eh? You don’t mind if anyone is spying on your data trail.
Except you’re lying.
It’s incredibly easy to say privacy is not that important, but you, like everyone else, have something to hide. You can prove me wrong though; leave your primary email addresses and social media account usernames and their respective passwords for me in the comments below for me to look through and read and publish anywhere I choose on the Internet. After all, you have nothing to hide, right?
This is where we must draw the line; we must acknowledge that behavior changes under surveillance, and that being spied on is oppressive in and of itself. There are some things you will only do when you know that absolutely no one is watching, and not because they are bad, but simply because there are some things you simply want to be yours, and only yours. Free from the judgmental eyes and ears of society. A world without privacy is one which enforces obedience and compliance — a prison in the mind. A less overt form of tyranny. By accepting monitoring, we are allowing our very essence of freedom to be crippled.
You might be thinking that I must have some really cool way to guarantee your privacy online. Some secret that a small minority are aware of. That I’ve saved this secret for the very last paragraph.
Sorry. Privacy is one tough cookie to break. But maybe a good place to start, is the TOR Project.
Originally published at www.techkiosk.org on October 26, 2015.