With the new GDPR regulations, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea that technological security is often treated as a trade-off between public security and personal privacy. And I’m not talking about personal privacy as in a luxury for the privileged — high walls and closed doors.
I am referring to the collection and use of personal data at scale; governments and corporations accumulating massive amounts of highly personal information from billions of people.
This accumulation of data is, in and of itself, not a “personal privacy” issue, but a massive public security problem.
Three major issues come to mind. One is the effect the lack of privacy has on original thought. If you know your every move can be watched, and your every communication can be monitored, you’re much less likely to experiment with anything edgy or controversial. Progress will be greatly stifled.
A second problem is that privacy eradication for the general public will help to perpetuate status-quo laws, standards and establishments. Imagine how much power a group would have if it has access to everything any controversial group or person has ever said and done, while maintaining their own privacy. What happens if we challenge the status quo in this scenario? Perhaps selective enforcement of unjust laws?
And finally, with technology getting better and better at manipulating advertising based on your private data, when combined, accumulated private data could be used to steer public opinion on a massive scale.
When privacy is threatened in such a way that people are afraid to express contentious thoughts or experiment with new ideas, privacy is no longer an option. My fear is that this will be the world we live in, if we’re not already there.