Yes folks, it’s party time!
Today is the International Privacy Day. In most European countries, the United States and Canada initiatives have been developed to give privacy the spotlight it deserves.
I don’t think we have very much to rejoice about, though. In my opinion privacy is an issue that has been put on the backburner in most “civilized” societies. Where once it was an almost holy given right, that right has been nibbled away through time, to the point where we should be really worried.
More and more people are so scared by feelings of unsafety that they are willing to give up large parts of their privacy, to receive a false sense of safety in return. When you rationalize it (read Bruce Schneiers “Beyond Fear” to help you with that), the tradeoff isn’t one I’m happy with.
The sheer number of databases, governemental and private, that hold privacy related information on any and all of us is uncountable and because of that no one has oversight anymore.
And who knows, the activities that you employ and are legal now, might be outlawed by your next governement. Do you really want them to be able to correlate just about every aspect of your life, now and the rest of your life? That’s the problem with electronically stored data, isn’t it? It doesn’t adhere to the law laws governing matter and energy. It can be copied as many times as needed and will never go away, unless someone makes it.
The biggest threat to privacy isn’t (database) technology, though. It’s us.
Or more specific, the lack of attention and level of complacency we attach to privacy.
We tend to put down people defending privacy as nuisances, as unimportant. Don’t get me wrong, I think that there are many cirsumstances that need to have a priority over privacy, but to me it seems that that has become standard.
So what to do?
Start by being genuinely interrested in the viewpoint of those that want to give up some privacy and those that don’t. And have both sides keep real and rationalized goals in mind. Giving up privacy to enable someone to siff through databases might not (will probably not) lead to terror-safe streets, but wanting to hang on to every shred of privacy might lead to a nonfunctional society.
The best solution to me would be to keep the “pro and con” discussion alive and open. This day hopefully helps with that.