“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” -Edward Snowden
There are some people who say that privacy is dead (including the head of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg). Type the words “Privacy is” into a Google search bar, and their algorithm is quick to suggest “Privacy is dead get over it”, “Privacy is dead”, and “Privacy is an illusion”. If it were up to companies like Facebook and Google, this would certainly be the reality. But the good news is, it is not up to these companies to dictate how much privacy internet users should have. It is up to all of us. And it is time we all collectively stand up to these companies, put our foot down, and say “no” to surveillance, say “no” to censorship, say “no” to being controlled. We demand our right to privacy.
As we have seen, this past year was undoubtedly the worst year for our personal privacy. But as with any extreme pendulum swing in one direction, it is bound to cause an equally strong reaction in the other direction. And that is what we will see in 2017: a collective resolution to take back our privacy; a renewed shift away from being the “product” (a data packet to be auctioned off) back to being the true “customer”.
The truth is, we are in a battle over our inalienable right to privacy – and I firmly believe that the privacy advocates and defenders will be victorious. The crucial part is, now is the time. We are on the cusp of the turning tide. 2017 will be an important year; this is where we will either look back and pinpoint that this is where we put an end to mass surveillance and digital privacy violations, or we will look back and say this was the crucial point where we should have intervened and changed course; this is where we laid down, voluntarily surrendered our rights and were defeated. As a privacy advocate, I believe 2017 will be, nay must be, the year we ensure that our society will not turn into 1984.
So as with all change, it us up to all of us. As President Obama poignantly said during his farewell speech, “change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.” I repeat: demand it. So I ask you: will you resign defeated, helping put the nail in the privacy coffin, or will you stand with us and demand control? For all who choose to resign defeated, I believe they will be on the wrong (losing) side of history. For the rest of us who are advancing this privacy revolution, we will be the ones to ensure that digital privacy rights are safe and secure for all of us now, and for all future generations.
Now, in 2017, we demand control of our data. We refuse to be a product that is sold – we are not for sale! We must create a society in which Privacy by Design is the default, not the exception. A society where a Privacy Bill of Rights is guaranteed across the entire World Wide Web (a Magna Carta, as the founder, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, envisioned). As it stands now, everything you do (and I mean everything) goes into your “permanent record”. We are under constant, nearly inescapable surveillance. Think about it – every click, every search, every view; so much data that they [the data companies], practically know every thought and emotion. We cannot continue down that road; the ramifications of that kind of data collection are frightening.
At the end of the day, money talks, so we must “vote” with our money – meaning, support companies which adhere to strict privacy policies, and reject those which do not. As Anna Lappe says, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” In the case of these “free” services (like Facebook), you are putting money directly into Zuckerberg’s hands by voluntarily surrendering your data and allowing your personal information to be sold and profited from. By doing so you are casting a vote for an Orwellian society.
As world citizens, it is our duty, not only for us but for all future generations, to put an end to this system of mass data trafficking and digital “permanent records”. We do this by supporting companies, organizations, and policies which truly value and uphold our right to privacy. Take action today!
Type again “Privacy is” into Google, and you will realize that by the 4th suggestion they get it right – “Privacy is a moral right”! My hope is that by the end of 2017 that will be in the #1 spot, and no one will say that privacy is dead, only that it is, indeed, our moral right.