Digital Privacy: Why it matters
As I talked about in my previous article I have been thinking about, and talking about, privacy a lot recently. It has been an extremely heavy subject on my mind and one that I have discussed with quite a few people I know.
Responses have been…varied…and…well, a little sad. I have gotten everything from “Yes our privacy is gone but it doesn’t bother me.” to “How can you be concerned about this? Nothing is wrong, you are being crazy.”
The “It doesn’t bother me” line I was prepared for. I had used that exact same reasoning in the past, and it’s one I can logically understand. The “you are being a crazy conspiracy theorist” logic is one that I was unprepared for.
one of my colleagues in the world of IT pointed out that right now the internet is kind of like the wild west. There are kind of laws…sort of…I mean, there are laws in the world, but no one really knows how to fully apply them to the internet, and even if they did no one knows how to really ENFORCE them on the internet. At the end of the day, it’s a no man’s land.
That mind space brought me to another thought. You see, there was this old saying back in ye-old day’s of yonder: I sold my soul to the company store. The idea behind this would be that, as a miner you worked all day, and when you got paid the same man that employed you owned a store. That man knew how much money you had, because he gave you the money, so he knew what to charge you for your essentials. Due to that strict control of their lives, miners in that time frequently felt trapped in a life they could not escape, because saving any kind of real money was near impossible.
That’s somewhat how I feel about privacy on the internet. Our information isn’t ours, we’re being molded like cattle to fill the pockets of the big companies out there. Think of this from an economics perspective, and yes: you’ll have to wear your crazy conspiracy theorist hat for what I’m about to say (and no, I’m not saying this is a reality, I’m just saying this is something that is worth THINKING about)
Between google, amazon, and Facebook everything about us is known. They know when we get a new job, they know what kind of things we like to buy. They know what kind of information we are interested in. We’re easy to move around. It wouldn’t be hard for amazon to take what it knows about us, and offer a select few people an every so slightly higher price on certain goods. If it was done correctly it would be pretty hard to track.
Beyond that, let’s think of politics in the world. I have an android phone, google has my information, and through it’s “Google Now” service, it recommends articles that I might be interested in reading on the internet. The scary thing is that it’s fairly good at recommending things. What pop’s up is almost always something I’m interested in reading, but I’ve noticed something this year… I’ve been more politically charged then I have ever been in my life… and you know what’s changed? Google has been slipping in little tidbits about the primaries here or there throughout my reading lists. With that in mind…it would be so easy for google to shape the outcome of an election that it’s laughable. It could easily slip articles that promote certain agenda’s, and provide certain positive or negative outlooks on different candidates, or bills. There is literature out there to convince anyone that any particular idea is good or bad. All it takes is the right spin, the right numbers. The right implications.
And you know what, googles already been doing this. It’s been shown that google has been subtly swaying search results to lead people towards Hilary.
My point is this: If science fiction has taught me anything it is that there is a razor thin line between dystopian futures and Utopian futures. Let’s face the fact’s though: We aren’t capable of a Utopian future right now. We either continue on our own messed up little way, or we go full Dystopia, and hard. Remember the Eloi are livestock, not lords. Beneath that perfect society where there is no hate, no pain, no color? Well, beneath that there is a government that knows they are denying people the ability to live, and will do anything to keep the world as they see fit.
Dystopia’s always seem perfect on the surface, so does the trade off of a little private information for a wealth of benefit. That doesn’t mean that it IS perfect though. Not by a long shot.