Should I Care About My Privacy?

 In Activism, Stay Safe
Verizon Obama Meme

Can You Hear Me Now, NSA?

Verizon has sent your phone records to the NSA. Google recently announced that it would be curtailing any facial recognition apps for its new Google Glass endeavor, citing privacy concerns. Facebook’s “mutual friends” feature reveals connections others may not want shown. If you’re not a “private person,”  you “don’t have anything to hide,” or you “just don’t post anything I don’t want anyone to find online,”  you might be wondering – is it worth worrying about your privacy? Let’s look at some privacy myths popular today:

Myth #1: Privacy Is For Criminals and the Morally Bankrupt

I live in the United States, and furthermore I chose to live in the town I live in for its slower, quieter pace. I enjoy a lot of freedoms, and I was brought up with a great deal of nationalism. And to that end, I enjoy a lot of privilege for being American, for being white, and for being a cisgender male. The problem with privilege is that you don’t have to know you’re privileged to be privileged, and you might not realize it until you’ve experienced a form of discrimination or been made aware of the discrimination of others.

So in a country like mine, privacy is something that is often taken for granted, because so much of what we do or say is under our own control. I can type (almost) whatever I want on this blog site, and I don’t have to fear (mostly) that horrible things will happen to me or my family as a result. Other countries may have more restrictions. Even in this “free country,” we continue to have our privacy invaded more and more in the name of either government control or corporate profit, and mostly we apathetically concede we are no longer in control of who knows what about us.

The site Texts From Last Night is a great example of our apathy: it provokes young people to send in their raucous, racy, drunken, and unfortunate texts about their previous night out and sexual or chemical conquests for all to read, omitting telephone numbers but including area codes.

Harrison Ford in The Fugitive

My Facebook account was hacked; I swear I didn’t post “Whelp, off to kill my wife, BRB, lulz.”

Facebook is probably the biggest trap for catching casual people off-guard about their privacy. The site is notoriously connected to government agencies who collect data about Facebook users at DHS fusion centers around the globe, in the name of anti-terrorism, and users seem to think that changing their privacy settings is enough to make sure their content is really theirs and really private from prying eyes.

So you’re not hiding anything, right? Well, let’s say the government decides to track your flight and vacation trips, your Facebook statuses, and a few of those anti-Obama meme pictures you posted, and when your trip happens to coincide at an airport in the same state the President is visiting that day, you wind up on a no-fly list with TSA wrist-deep in what you had for dinner last night? Do you think your privacy matters to you then? Or perhaps if you’d had your privacy, they wouldn’t have used your personal data to generate probable cause.

We live in a country where being able to dissent from the way our country is being run is supposed to be a fundamentally protected right. Without the right to privacy, you may never be able to speak publicly or over the phone or on the internet to exercise your right to free speech again. Your privacy matters, even if you’re not up to anything worth hiding.

Myth #2: Criminals Don’t Want Me

So if you’re not worried about the government (and you should be), you should still be concerned about identity theft. Here’s a few versions of the same basic excuse:

  • I’m no one important: I have no real authority or power or special access to anything. 
  • I have no money: I’m pretty much living paycheck-to-paycheck, there’s nothing to steal.
  • I have a low credit rating: good luck getting any credit cards in my name.

Nicolas Cage Laughing Not having yourself in mind as a valuable target is a great way to fall victim to identify theft. With technology and software, all it takes is a few thousand of you to make up a big score. Or worse, with the right details about your life, someone can commit even bigger crimes and fraud and leave the tail pinned to you, Donkey.

Myth #3: My Spouse / Loved One / Friend Knows I’m Trustworthy

You’re one of those cutesy couples that shares an email account, Facebook page, Twitter account, and you even still have a landline phone so that you can have a shared answering machine greeting. Communication simply doesn’t reach you without them knowing about it because they’re always in your business.

Overly Attached Girlfriend Asks About Phone Battery

Can’t a guy text his Dungeon Master without getting the third degree?

They *know* you’re trustworthy because they’re in all of your communications, but still they don’t trust you. That’s insecurity. If you said “I’d like some privacy, maybe my own facebook account, etc.” they’d probably flip their shit and accuse you of cheating on them. They’d give you the b.s. lines I mentioned earlier about how “if you’re not doing anything wrong, why do you need more privacy?” You need to break up with this person – I feel like most people would agree with me on that.

So why then do we put up with the same thing from our government? Our government is a needy, possessive, overprotective, insecure partner that wants to be in all of our business so that they can feel secure about their place in power, and assure their corporate sponsors we aren’t up to anything not in their best interests. Your privacy is important; it’s a very real need. It’s up there with food, safety, love, and happiness. Without privacy, you have no way to express yourself completely freely, or have a reasonable expectation of anonymity when needed. Without privacy, there is no freedom – whether you “deserve” monitoring or not.

Hugh Laurie Thumbs Up

Dave
I'm a 29 year-old blogger and tech support guy at a small university in the south. Technology makes me angry. I have certifications from Microsoft and Apple and I love Linux too. RAWR.
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