What is privacy?
These days, when it feels like there is an ongoing assault on privacy, understanding what it means and how it can be saved becomes very crucial. Internet privacy generally involves “the right or mandate of personal privacy concerning the storing, repurposing, provision to third parties, and displaying of information pertaining to oneself via the Internet” (Wikipedia). With most of your personal details and private information available on the social media like Facebook, Twitter it becomes important that these don’t get sold to wrong agencies or organizations. Yes, with every click or swipe, growing amounts of information you share about yourself is being documented and collected by the U.S. intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA) or is handed to a corporation to make money. The NSA carries its operations in such a way that it goes unnoticed by the general public. By decoding and bugging electronic systems, with hidden sensors, microphones and subversive software (hacking software), agencies like NSA are able to collect large amounts of information unsuspected and undetected with continuous regular global monitoring. Facebook recently, has been alleged of selling advertisers details of private message of its users, without their consent. With users believing they are communicating on a surveillance free service, they are likely to talk more freely and reveal facts about themselves that they rather won’t. This puts Facebook in a powerful position, which has already “paid over $US30 million to settle previous law suits relating to privacy” (ABC News). They can systematically intercept its users messages and sell it to the companies that can make use of this data and make profit. “According to the lawsuit, Facebook made $US2.7 billion in targeted ad sales in 2011” (ABC News).
What happens if we give up privacy?
With practically everything about you secretly read and documented, like the NSA can collect your calls logs, listen to them, read your emails or available online, your status updates can give details about your personal interests and your current location can be tracked by your phone, and there is virtually nothing you can do about it, you may get the notion that why should you even want to hold onto privacy then? What will we lose? Why is it necessary and precious? Privacy is connected to your intimate things, the hidden feelings of your head and heart that you would like to share with very few people. It could your personal belonging that is intended for a particular person and you would like to keep it confidential and disclosed from others. Privacy is directly related to International Human Rights, freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Continuous monitoring and surveillance will only lead to self-censorship. We will become careful of what we say, will try to express ourselves differently so that we are not misunderstood or misinterpreted. This will only inhibit our growth as an individual because people are known by their thoughts, by what they say. Ultimately, it is as if people who govern us are controlling our thoughts, our actions and our lives. Those who believe that “they have nothing to fear as they don’t do anything wrong” are living under a sense of false security. This is a direct invasion of their privacy and who knows what is misunderstood after interpreting their data. The government is answerable to us; we are not answerable to them. Those who say, “they don’t care as long as the government keeps them safe” don’t understand that if agencies like the NSA can get our minute-to-minute updates so can terrorist organizations. Their networks are continuously growing and if they can get hold of a similar hacking software or a decoder or NSA database that comprises of all the stored information, who knows what can happen.
Can privacy be saved?
Regular advancement in technology will only give the agencies more control and power and if we cannot stop them, we can at least use some simple privacy tools to mask our digital footsteps. Simple ad-blocking extensions in the browser, which keep ads away, also prevent ad companies getting data about you. Privowny is an excellent software in a way that it keeps a track of your personal data on other websites. A free privacy toolbar found on Chrome and Firefox, keeps a track of your personal details like your credit card number, email, phone number and notifies you as soon as any website shares this data about you. Cookies are tiny files on the websites and browsers, so that the marketing companies can track users interests and habits. Evidon’s Ghostery, a free software, detects these cookies and lets you delete them or block them permanently. “Anonymous browsers such as DuckDuckGo have seen a traffic soar since allegations on the NSA, with 4.5 million visits a day” (Wall Street Journal). Anonymous browsers don’t collect any information on its users and block ad trackers from its search page. With consumers spending enormous amounts of their time on their smartphones, keeping users data safe on it becomes very crucial. The FreedomPop privacy phone does exactly that by encrypting a person’s instant messages, emails and blocks companies from tracking their location.
The Bottom Line
According to me, its not about what people are hiding, its about what they want to share. I know it is unlikely that most people will make the shift to a privacy phone or will customize their browsers to keep their personal data safe, but when they understand the dangers of having their minute to minute updates online, hidden, documented against their will, they will probably slowly make the switch. I will have a peace of mind if I know that, the companies out there are not selling my information and are not inquiring about my browsing habits. The things I want to share with my closest buddies, little secrets, are kept that way.