Thursday, April 13, 2017

Indifference is the greatest protector of our privacy

Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
For my parents generation, Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" was a great protest song. Anyone who takes the time to actually read the lyrics will see that it isn't. The point of the song is rather that the human condition never changes. Wealth is generated, diseases are cured, technology is developed but the we ourselves and the universe we live in remain mysteries.

Lately, that bitter impatience that led my parents' generation, also known as "the silent generation" to protest against the human condition has come back with a vengeance. One sign of this is the concern with privacy.

Here's the thing: you don't have any privacy. None. Research and writing has been a part of my job for forty some years now and if I took a whim to dig into you and your secrets, I could find out an immense amount about you. The only thing that saves most of us from having our most embarrassing secrets trotted out for our humiliation is that no one particularly cares. If you ever did something to motivate people against you—such as running for office or being charged with a crime—they'd find things that you think no one knows about and they'd use them to hurt you so fast it would stagger you.

And so could anyone else who really wanted to know your secrets.

The thing that saves you is that they don't care enough to bother.

You're just not that important. This has been said here before, but it's worth repeating, your purchasing habits, your web-surfacing history, your occasional porn-viewing habits are of no interest or value to corporations. Companies collecting data on online users don't care about you. There is no money in you. What's valuable to them is what large groups of people do. Knowing what value sets motivate women who care about fashion to self-select into identifiable taste groups is knowledge worth billions of dollars. Knowing that you have secrets is probably of no economic value to anyone.

There are nasty little people who would like to know your secrets, ranging from gossips to identity theft artists, but they aren't the ones people worry about. There is also very good reason not to want governments to collect a lot of information about their citizens but the people who pretend to worry about large corporations collecting data actually promote more and more government invasion of our privacy. (That's because "privacy" is just a smokescreen for their real interest which is more government control of the economy.)

There are also those people who shared your secrets and could, in theory, divulge them any time they took a dislike to you. Assuming they remember, which they probably don't as they neither love you nor hate you enough to remember these things for very long.

The bottom line, though, is that should anyone decide it was worth their while to ferret out your secrets they'd have a very good chance of succeeding. If powerful people in the press decided to do so, they'd have an even better chance. If your government ever turns on you, you're doomed.

Final thought: What about the secrets about yourself that you're keeping from yourself? There are some. And they're important secrets or else you wouldn't bother lying to yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment