Why Privacy Matters

To me, the case for protection of privacy is instinctual and obvious. Sometimes, I simply feel the need to recede from the world, and go into my own world as I practice new things, talk to myself, figure out a game plan, and just hang out with myself. When the Edward Snowden leaks happened, I thought here was a hero who is sacrificing and endangering himself for the greater good. Clearly our government has gone too far in one direction in the privacy-security balance.

However, listening to the discussions in the media, even on venerable institutions like NPR, and even my intelligent friends, one of the common responses appears to be the “shrugging of the shoulders” and why does this matter? I have nothing to hide, they say, so look all you want.

I simply don’t understand such a response. Even if you have nothing to hide, are you truly OK with sharing everything you have with strangers? At the surface, this can easily be disproven. If you are OK with being completely transparent, then please — CC everything you write to me. Emails, text messages, FB updates, things you buy, websites you visit, people you call, snapchats you send, etc. Would you ever agree to do this? Even for a week?

At a deeper level, do you never feel the need to be truly private —to recede into the depths of your sole presence and then to re-emerge again as a social being?

Does posterity not deserve a chance to what it feels like to be private?

Do you really trust the government with your data? Yes, CC’ing everything to me is different from CC’ing some abstract, hidden entity. I might judge you for your lack of taste or downright vulgarity. The NSA couldn’t care less — so you don’t care if they look. But the fact of the matter that these governmental powers have a huge potential for abuse. It is a matter of fact that the FBI was wiretapping MLK, Jr. A man so revered and respected now, was during the height of his fight, being closely monitored by J Edgar Hoover, the longtime head of the FBI. Richard Nixon, while serving as President, felt the need to illegally record his conversations and broke into his political opponent’s psychiatric records to dig up dirt. Is it not obvious that this technology enables corruption at a much, much bigger, faster scale? And it is simply naive to think for one second that such corruption will never happen.

These are just some of my thoughts. Another lucid, articulate summary argument comes from Glenn Greenwald.


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