Privacy online Ep.1 – Why your privacy is important

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One of the things most often heard is “if you have nothing to hide then you shouldn’t worry about your online privacy.

This concept is based, in my opinion, on a rather narrow and limited view of what our privacy is and our rights as human beings.

Your business is your own

Just think about how many times you have done something while you were alone, I mean even stupid things, like dancing ridiculously or singing out of tune. Would you have done it in public? You weren’t doing anything wrong after all…

Some people would have nothing to be ashamed of singing or dancing in public, and they would do well, but we are not all the same, and sometimes we want to keep our ” weirdness” just for ourselves.

If you were a person who prefers to keep certain moments private, how would you feel about being caught in the moment when you’re acting weird? You’d feel a sense of shame and humiliation.

Or, if you don’t have anything to hide, email me all your accounts with passwords so I can watch what you do and share it with whoever I want.

The proposal is open, but I don’t think I will ever receive an email of this kind. Why not? Do you have something to hide?

No, probably because you think that’s your business and that I have no right to look at your e-mails or enter your social networks. Although I wouldn’t find anything strange or illegal.

This is exactly what we’re talking about. The right to privacy, the right not to be observed by someone and the right that my data is not sold for the purpose of manipulating me.

I took these examples from this very interesting TED talk:

Would you leave your smartphone to a stranger?

Terrorizing people by telling them how their data is used does not have a great hold on people, but instead make them think about what their right to privacy is, and how we all really care about that right, could work.

Still to dismantle the phrase “I have nothing to hide anyway”, would you be willing to leave your phone unlocked for 10 minutes in a stranger’s hand?

If the answer is no, it doesn’t mean you’re a criminal with something to hide. It just means you don’t want to show your private sphere to a stranger. And you’re right!

Would you live downtown in a glass house?

Try to think about this. You have an apartment downtown, ground floor. The walls are completely transparent and people walking around while shopping can look inside your house.

Would you live in a house like this? Why not?

Exaggerated examples

If you think these examples are exaggerated, perhaps you should explore how large companies and government agencies use your data.

The fact that all this is not directly tangible and that you don’t realize it, doesn’t take away the fact that your privacy is not managed as it should and that you should do something to become aware of it and make the choices you think are appropriate, like whether or not to grant your data.

Letting someone know everything about you may not seem like a big deal, but no one has the crystal ball to know what will happen in the future.

How will your data be used? Could it be used against you? Do you trust Google, Facebook, Amazon, NSA so much that they get everything they need to profile you with incredible accuracy and even predict what you will do?

Maybe the data you’ve decided to give your favorite app is now being used to show you the advertising that’s right for you. But what if things change? What if that data is stolen and used against you? What if the laws change and you no longer have control over the data?

In Amsterdam, before the Second World War, data of the citizens was collectet (obviously not digital) for the well-being of all, and everyone was happy. When the Nazis arrived, their deportations worked extremely well thanks to this data.

I said fear doesn’t work, and I don’t want to use it. But think about how something can be used for good as well as evil.

So why your privacy is so important?

Think about the examples I gave you, and think about how they made you feel, even though you have nothing to hide. I will try to list the reasons why in my opinion our right to privacy cannot be taken lightly and cannot be considered a right we can do without if we are good people:

  • Not having privacy means changing our behavior: We change the way we behave based on whether someone is watching us or not. Our behavior becomes milder, quieter. We have the right to be able to behave the way we want when no one is watching, and that these behaviors remain our own. We have the right to be ourselves, without being influenced by the fact that someone is watching us (you may think that no one is watching you when you are alone, but it is not, and this series will also help you understand this).
  • It’s a right and you don’t know when you need it: Ed Snowden said this beautiful phrase. Privacy is a right, and even if right now you feel you can do without it, you never know when it might come in handy. Things change, and history teaches us that. But the moment you decide to give it up, you might have big problems when you want it back.
  • Our online presence doesn’t end when you turn off your smartphone: Maybe it could have been like that at the dawn of the internet, but today our online presence is an integral part of our lives in the real world, and these two lives affect each other. Thinking you live in a house with transparent walls is as horrifying to you as it should be to the horror that thousands of companies, as well as government agencies halfway around the world have your data, which they can use illegally. Your online life has become important now, and it can have serious repercussions on your real life.
  • Everyone’s data can be used (and has been) for malicious purposes: Haven’t you ever heard of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal? Our data can and has been used to manipulate entire populations. In China, there are plans to use AI to predict crimes, Minority Report style. Do you really feel like taking the risk of being manipulated or imprisoned because an AI said you might commit a crime, but you never did? This may sound crazy now, but the world changes fast and we don’t know what will happen.

Become aware but not extremist

I’ve never been one of those “I have nothing to hide” guys, but I never cared much for my privacy.

I liked to use all possible services and I agreed to everyone using my data indiscriminately.

But then I gave myself the examples I gave you, and I realized that not everything is so obvious and that becoming a conscious user was my duty.

I’ve decided I need to change some things, and manage my online presence consciously.

I obviously don’t want to become a privacy extremist. There are services that I must and want to use, but being aware also means deciding in a conscientious and responsible way what data to give and to whom.

Each post in this series will be the story of a step forward in protecting myself and my data, hopefully it will help you if you too have to see your online presence as extremely serious.

To learn more

I’ll leave you some interesting links to deepen themes that you may not know, and that can help you develop the awareness you need to look at the internet with a different eye.

My phone is spying on me, so I decided to spy on my phone

Google and Mastercard Cut a Secret Ad Deal to Track Retail Sales

Amazon Alexa – Conversations shared

Facebook – Some of the data they collect and sell

PayPal reveals it shares customers’ data with more than 600 companies

Google admits its new smart speaker was eavesdropping on users