I shake my head often at tech users who are so enamored by gadgets and devices and the convenience they offer, the downright necessity of staying in constant contact, that the idea of security and privacy rushes through their brains with a shrug and a “so what” and a “privacy is dead” attitude.
Most of us briefly thought of this after Edward Snowden helped us to understand that government surveillance was more than a conspiracy theory or Orwellian fiction, it was real. We thought about it, asked for answers and even change from the government, got none, then shrugged our shoulders and moved on to passive acceptance of the brave new world of personal surveillance, knowing that being able to play with our tech toys made up for the sacrifice. I believe if the government had robbed us of our tech toys, there would be a much bigger revolt than there was when we discovered they had robbed us of our privacy.
The non thinker will tell you, “I have nothing to hide why should I care about privacy?”
Perhaps so, if you also have nothing to lose. No family, no friends, no career, no reputation, no bank accounts, no possessions, no credit score, and have no enemies or anyone that might wish you malice or to use you for personal gain.
Oh but you do have so much to lose, you just haven’t taken time to think about it, or you haven’t been hit with a life altering or constraining event (yet) that will shake you into full concern. Being fired from your job, having your reputation or your business tarnished so that you are unhirable and your career trashed that has been a lifetime in the making, a bank account that is the key to your credit score is compromised, your identity stolen, your life threatened, a spouse, a family, children are lost because of a misunderstanding or inaccurate statement about you, your identity or retirement nest egg are hacked and compromised, or you don’t get that job or gig that you need so badly.
Personally, I have a career to protect. I’m a consultant who works for many companies and wishes to work for many more. I live and die by my reputation. People in these companies have prejudices and bigotry just like any human. Like it or not, legal or not, accurate or not, political or religious beliefs, social habits (including bad habits), things you buy or do in your personal time, temperament, race, age, gender, even choice of phone that you use – all play into a pre-conceived image that people will form of you when considering hiring or employing. In a tech field, just the fact that I am a BlackBerry supporter can and has been used against me discriminatorally, as I am perceived to be technologically illiterate for using what is perceived to be an antiquated device, so I keep that secret. I also sign non-disclosure agreements and am trusted with confidential competition sensitive information. Not only do I have to protect my own privacy, I also have to protect the information that I am entrusted with, or risk a devastating lawsuit and reputation ruin.
This personal image can be acquired from your on line digital footprint – your comments on Twitter, Facebook, websites, BBM or other messaging services, phone texts, personal emails that have been hacked, on articles you read or write, personal photographs, videos you upload to youtube, your fingerprints – all are accumulated into your permanent on line data base and present a portfolio to the world of exactly who you are and how you think. And it is virtually impossible to change or erase, especially once the damage is done to your reputation.
Whether accurate or inaccurate, in context or taken out of, these things all paint a picture of who you are, your moral values, what is important to you and what is not, your intelligence and judgement. And even if your true self is impeccable, the appearance can be altered either deliberately or by removing your comments from their context. These days, your footprint can even put you in physical danger as political ideologies and defending them becomes more and more violent. Even if you change your ideologies, your digital reputation is permanent and will follow you.
If you are the object of a person’s wrath or desire, you can be located, stalked, and harassed or worse. If your personal safety doesn’t concern you what about that of your children?
In the case of tyrannical or authoritarian governments, your digital fingerprint will quickly identify you as support or opposition to the powers that be, your location can be easily tracked and you can be easily ‘disappeared’ to political prisons or simply to the site of the next mass grave.
Glenn Greenwald, a privacy advocate, gave this talk shortly after the Snowden release of classified files (essential watching):
Why Your Privacy Matters Even If You’re Not “Doing Anything Wrong.”
“…the people that say that, that privacy isn’t really important, they don’t actually believe it. And the way that you know that they don’t actually believe it, is that while they say with their words “privacy doesn’t matter,” with their actions they take all kinds of steps to safeguard their privacy. They put passwords on their email and their social media accounts, they put locks on their bedroom and bathroom doors. All steps designed to prevent other people from entering what they consider their private realm and knowing what it is that they don’t want other people to know.”
“The reason is that when were in a state where we can be monitored or can be watched, our behavior changes dramatically. …Mass surveillance creates a prison in the mind that is a much more subtle, though much more effective, means of fostering compliance with social norms or with social orthodoxy, and is much more effective than brute force could ever be.”
Daniel Solove,founder of Teachprivacy.com gives us ten reasons why Privacy matters, summarized below.
Daniel is one of the world’s leading experts in privacy law, Solove is the author of numerous books, including Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security (Yale 2011), Understanding Privacy (Harvard 2008), The Future of Reputation: Gossip and Rumor in the Information Age (Yale 2007) (winner of the 2007 McGannon Award), and The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age (NYU 2004). He was chosen by the American Law Institute (ALI) to serve as co-reporter on the ALI’s Restatement Third: Information Privacy Principles.
1. Limit on power
The more a person or entity (company, government, lawyer,) knows about us the more power they have over us.
2. Respect for 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.
3. Reputation management
Privacy enables people to manage their reputations. How we are judged by others affects our opportunities, friendships, and overall well-being.
4. Maintaining appropriate social boundaries
We need places of solitude to retreat to, places where we are free of the gaze of others in order to relax and feel at ease.
Breaches of confidentiality are breaches of trust.
6. Control over ones life
Without having knowledge of what data is being used, how it is being used, the ability to correct and amend it, we are virtually helpless in today’s world.
7. Freedom of thought and speech
A watchful eye over everything we read or watch can chill us from exploring ideas outside the mainstream. Privacy is also key to protecting speaking unpopular messages.
8. Freedom of social and political activities
Privacy helps protect our ability to associate with other people and engage in political activity. A key component of freedom of political association is the ability to do so with privacy if one chooses.
9. Ability to change and have second chances
Many people are not static; they change and grow throughout their lives. There is a great value in the ability to have a second chance, to be able to move beyond a mistake, to be able to reinvent oneself.
10. Not having to explain or justify oneself
An important reason why privacy matters is not having to explain or justify oneself. We may do a lot of things which, if judged from afar by others lacking complete knowledge or understanding, may seem odd or embarrassing or worse. It can be a heavy burden if we constantly have to wonder how everything we do will be perceived by others.
So if you honestly have nothing to lose or nothing more to lose (or to gain), your privacy is not important. But few of us find ourselves willfully in that position.
Now are you concerned about privacy? Well then you should have a very close look at the biggest privacy threat to you as identified recently by Engadget, your phone:
2016’s biggest privacy threat: Your phone
How your phone reveals all your secrets. Literally.
As if that weren’t enough, as digital devices intrude more and more into our daily private and public life, we will soon have many more privacy invading devices, which we will have less control over. Those wired things that will be internet connected to the “Internet of Things” (IoT).
This is why we choose BlackBerry. BlackBerry 10 is the most secure OS, followed by DTEK technology if you must have pure Android.
As a cyber-security leader with a reputation to match, let us hope that BlackBerry becomes deeply embedded in this growing, invasive field of technology.
Final thought: If you still believe that privacy does not matter, does that mean you have never sent a private message to anyone? If so, ask yourself why?