We are living in remarkable times. We can make pictures of places and people we like by pressing a button on our phones; shop from our homes for literally anything from needles to cars; reach hundreds of thousands of people through social and blogging platforms, and consume information on any topic in any volume at any time of the day just with a tap of a fingers.
But all that comes at a price. And that price is our privacy.
Many people believe that if they have nothing to hide, why would they have to worry about their online privacy? This is understandable and is absolutely normal. We expect that some companies know a lot of info about us (mainly because we provide it to them ourselves), but it might be a huge surprise that other companies collect far more sensitive information about us that we might not want to share with anyone.
To make matters worse, advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in recent years enable companies to find very interesting patterns and create fine-grained physiological and psychological profiles of people based on their online behavior. There was a case in 2012, when a company knew a girl was pregnant even before her family knew that or companies like Facebook that can predict if a relationship will last. Now imagine what can be done with AI and lots of data about people nowadays.
There are a sets of reasons to care about your privacy even if you’ve got nothing to hide: ideological reasons and practical reasons.
- Your privacy is a right you haven’t always had.
Just like the right to interracial marriage, the right to divorce, female labor, the freedom of speech, same-sex marriage and so many others, we didn’t always have the right to privacy. In several dictatorships around the world, they still don’t. Generations before ours fought for our right to privacy. Not caring about it shows little knowledge about history and the importance of it.
2. Privacy is a human right.
Article 12 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “No one must be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation.”
It’s a human right just like the right to equality, justice, freedom, a nationality, the right to religion, etc.
3. Having nothing to hide is not true nor realistic.
Don’t confuse privacy with secrecy. I know what you do in the bathroom, but you still close the door. That’s because you want privacy, not secrecy.
You have a passcode or some sort of security in your phone. Same goes for email. Nobody ever handed me their phone to allow me to read their chats or see their pictures. If you didn’t have anything to hide, you wouldn’t care. But you do. Everybody does. Privacy is something that is part of us as human begins.
- Information in the wrong hands becomes dangerous.
You might be okay with governments or security agencies or companies having your private information. You might trust Google and Facebook. But what if these get hacked and your information falls in the wrong hands? (See Yahoo or Ashley Madison.) Let’s say, someone targeting your family, your company, your wife/husband. Would you still be okay with that? Would you be okay knowing that your photos, emails, or chats are in the hands of someone who can blackmail you? Or even think, what if any of these uses this information to control and even to influcence the way that you think and the way that you act?
2. You can’t predict the future.
Right now you may not have a lot to risk. But what about 10 or 20 years from now? Let’s say you are running for a political position or administration of a public company. If Sony’s hacking has told us anything is that your private information has impact in your life. Amy Pascal, co-chairman of the company, lost her job because of it.
It’s not just your job or potential job, it’s also the integrity of your company. Can you imagine what it’s like to have your company torn apart because of a conversation you had 5 or 10 years ago? What would it be like to lose your job because of a conversation you had by phone with your wife?
3. Your private life out of context becomes a weapon.
We’ve all joked with things we consider sensitive. But, among friends, it’s something we all do. In fact, our behavior changes depending on the people we’re with. I bet I could find something offensive you said in a group chat that you have with your closest friends. Because they’re your friends and it was a joke or a sarcastic remark. But take it out of context and it is not longer a joke. What would happen if this “joke” fell in the hands of someone trying to harm you?
4. Your information has value
A company like Facebook or Google that actively practises Surveillance Capitalism allows you to upload unlimited data to their servers, for free. What’s their business model? How do they make so much money? They sell your information to advertising companies. But they never asked you if you wanted to sell your information. If someone asked you in person 100 questions about your personal life to sell it, would you answer them? Probably not, right? But you let this happen every time you use a service that makes money selling your information. That's not all, you're also allowing them to profile you and get to know better so they can create a version of your data-self.
Hopefully after reading this brief story about protecting your privacy and respecting your digital self now you're in a better place to think about how you share information online and how you share it.
Stay private 👍