Your Privacy Matters

A blog dedicated to all things privacy

Throughout my browsing of various places on the web and interactions with people in real life as well as online, I have often come across a common reply when the topic of privacy is presented. This reply is usually communicated as “Why should I care about privacy if I have nothing to hide?” Sometimes, people say “I am not a criminal, nor do I participate in any criminal activities, track me all you like.” To me, there is no worse mentality than those of the crowd who espouse these replies. It brings to mind a quote from Edward Snowden, “Arguing that you don't care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” Never mind that there are dozens of things we do every day that are perfectly legal that we would prefer not to have other people know about.

I do understand that in most cases, the nothing-to-hide argument comes from a place of focus on the hiding aspect of privacy. Caring about privacy does not strictly mean that you have anything to hide, it's about being able to control how we present ourselves to the world. It is the right to keep things to yourself. It's about personal dignity. It's about personal agency or the feeling of being in control of our actions and the consequences they have on our lives. Privacy should be also be considered under the context of power dynamics between the individual, the state and the market. Additionally, as recent scandals have illustrated so vividly, privacy is also about the autonomy, dignity, and self-determination of people – and it's a necessary precondition for democracy. If all of the aforementioned isn't enough to persuade you, I invite you to consider the following:

  • Suppose you do some online searches about cancer, or diabetes, or alcoholism. Do you want that info popping up the next time you apply for health insurance or car insurance or a job even if you don't have cancer, diabetes, or an alcohol problem? It makes it easy for any company to just deny you the insurance or the job, rather than investigate or take a risk.

  • Suppose you're a woman with an abusive ex-husband, or a creepy ex-boyfriend? Do you want them to be able to track your location in real-time, or track you even if you move to another city? Or to know where your new job is, or who many of your friends are?

  • Are you really comfortable with a faceless corporation knowing what medical problems you have, who your contacts are and what you are discussing, tracking every website you visit, building up a remarkably accurate profile of who you are, what videos you watch or what topics you are interested in then selling that data to third parties?

  • What if the government mistakenly determines that based on your pattern of activities, you're likely to engage in a criminal act? What if it denies you the right to fly? What if the government thinks your financial transactions look odd – even if you've done nothing wrong – and freezes your accounts? What if the government doesn't protect your information with adequate security, and an identity thief obtains it and uses it to defraud you? Even if you have nothing to hide, the government can cause you a lot of harm.

The truth is we all segment privacy in our lives and there are a plethora of reasons for doing so. For instance, I share my social security number with my bank. That does not mean that I want to share it with you. They have a legitimate need for it. You do not. And if all of the aforesaid is still insufficient to persuade you into caring about your privacy, then I invite you to read the information at the following websites:

Signed – He Who Fights for the User

I started this blog heavily inspired by the revelations of Edward Snowden and on the premise that if one cares strongly enough about a topic to warrant calling him/herself an advocate for it, one should share what knowledge they have learned regarding it. I feel people may benefit from me sharing my experiences concerning certain lifestyle changes, how they relate to privacy practices and how my life has improved or been made more challenging. This blog will consist of all things related to privacy, in both the digital and physical realms, and will be targeted toward the average person. That is to say, one who is only vaguely familiar with privacy and what it truly means in these areas of their lives. Through my posts, I hope to persuade my readers to change their current stance on the topic or at least reconsider it, if that stance happens to consist of neutrality or indifference. Perhaps I can even inspire them to be more conscious of even the most ordinary decisions or actions taken in their lives that may negatively impact their privacy and rights to it.

But why is privacy so important to me and why should you feel the same?

Consider one of your most private spaces, your home. You might secure it with lock and key, you might have curtains or blinds to keep strangers from peering in to your home, you close the door to restroom or use privacy glass for your shower, you use disk encryption on your computer or password protect your email to keep specific information from being accessed by anyone, etc. We do these things because we need and appreciate a certain level of privacy. We want to keep unwelcome eyes away from the things we would rather keep to ourselves. We hold our personal spaces, physical and digital, sacred and wish to deter distrusted individuals from invading them. Everyone has things they don’t want certain people to know. Caring about privacy does not necessarily mean that you have something to hide, it can mean that you simply have nothing you wish to share. I firmly believe that privacy is a human right and it intersects with several other human rights. To name a few:

  • The right to freedom of expression

  • The right to seek, receive and impart information

  • The right to freedom of association and assembly

You may not realize it or had previously considered it, but your right to privacy prevents governments from spying on people (without cause), can keep groups from using personal data for their own goals, ensures we have control over our data and it protects freedom of speech and thought. Without privacy, everything you do could be monitored which could have horrific consequences. You could be tracked based on your personal opinions about anything. If privacy rights didn’t let you keep your work and home life separate, “thought crimes” or what you say off the clock could get you in trouble. In our modern times, it is a right that is constantly violated by physical and online retailers, internet service providers, healthcare providers, the government, data brokers and big tech companies. Often, these violations occur without us knowing. There are mounds of evidence that all of these companies and organizations are guilty of such atrocities. You don't have to take my word for it either, although I will always do my best to ensure that I include relevant citations and sources in future posts for verification purposes.

Privacy is about respecting individuals. If a person has a reasonable desire to keep something private, it is disrespectful to ignore that person’s wishes without a compelling reason to do so. It is about putting a limit on the power of governments and private companies because the more they know about us, the more power they have over us. It is about social boundaries. We all need places of solitude to retreat to, places where we are free of the gaze of others to relax and feel at ease. It enables people to manage their reputations. How we are judged by others affects our opportunities, friendships, and overall well-being. Although we can’t have complete control over our reputations, we must have some ability to protect our reputations from being unfairly harmed.

Who are you and why should I heed your advice?

I am a self-proclaimed privacy advocate and technology enthusiast with an educational background in Information Technology and Information Systems Security, but ultimately an average person, like you. Although, I would argue that who I am, my ethnicity, my nationality, my age, my gender, my religious beliefs or lack thereof, political leanings or lack thereof, etc. are irrelevant. Besides, when it comes to communication, does not the message matter more than the person behind it?

I have researched the topic of privacy extensively and intensely, have read article upon article, followed online discussions, watched the TED Talk by Glenn Greenwald and the interviews of Edward Snowden, as well as read a fantastic book by author Michael Bazzell, an individual who previously investigated cyber crimes on behalf of the government and served as a technical advisor for the first season of the television hacker drama Mr. Robot. What I have discovered in my research I found so appalling I felt compelled to share with the world why we should, nay, why we MUST fight to preserve our privacy. In closing, I believe that my privacy matters and I do what I must to protect it. In the words of Edward Snowden, I don't wish to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something that I am willing to support or live under. Neither should you.

Signed – He Who Fights for the User

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