Monday, April 4, 2016

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Other Stuff that's None of Your Business - FINAL

Life, Liberty the Pursuit of Other Stuff that's None of Your Business

As more and more of our lives become digital, we are instantly profiled by advertising agencies based on our internet usage. Target was able to successfully guess that a teenage girl was pregnant before she told a single person, and sent a catalogue to her address, which her father found. A few days later, she admitted to her disbelieving father that she was pregnant. Target did this all through the usage of completely legal internet cookies. There was no blatant breach of privacy. However, in this case, simply knowing enough about a person’s buying habits compromised a part of that person’s privacy.

Is the protection of someone’s trivial secrets important enough to put our entire community or city or country in jeopardy?

Privacy has always been a concern for the government. In 1787, with the adoption of the constitution, it was stipulated that a census be conducted every decade. Many felt that this was a breach of privacy, but understood the usefulness and practicality of a civil census registry. In response, the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, which guarantees free speech and freedom from search and seizure. Privacy was further protected in 1868 with the 14th amendment, which guarantees the right to privacy to all U.S. citizens irrespective of race or color. [source]

As you can see, even through the history of our country, privacy is a big deal. But why? There are some pretty strong arguments against it. I’m willing to bet that with about the same accuracy as guessing when someone is pregnant based on shopping habits, we could guess when someone is emotionally and mentally unstable enough to be dangerous. How many terrorist attacks could we stop if we knew exactly what the terrorists were communicating with each other? 

Books like 1984 and the Hunger Games portray dystopian societies where the government is involved in every aspect of a person’s life so that privacy does not exist. By controlling and gathering all information, these governments maintain absolute power over their citizens. Although the main characters of these stories and those similar find a sliver of secrecy to hide from the government and fight against “Big Brother”, they would have never had the opportunity if the government truly eradicated all privacy.

In a very elaborate way, these stories describe the issue of stability versus privacy, of secrecy versus security. It is in these stories where we learn to despise organizations that control information and resources, the manipulation of which invariably causes suffering. A census makes sense - it can be used for planning and to maintain order. Tapping into personal data does NOT. There must be a line drawn as to what information is public (used for logistics and operations and is non-invasive) and what is private (personal information).

Anonymous uses digital privacy to carry out vigilante cyber acts.

If no privacy means reduced crime and more order, then why do we fight so hard to maintain it?

There is a common misconception that it's only people who are doing bad stuff that are the ones that want privacy. Sometimes, the fact that someone doesn't want to divulge information is incriminating to convince others of that person's guilt. However, Glenn Greenwald, in his TED Talk, says people that claim to not need privacy are essentially saying "I have agreed to make myself such a harmless and unthreatening and uninteresting person that I actually don't fear having the government know what it is that I'm doing."

Truthfully, most of us have trivial secrets that don’t concern national security. However, it is still absolutely valuable. And like Glenn Greenwald says, it makes us interesting and gives us a measure of power that the government shouldn't be able to strip from us.

Personality is deeply affected without privacy.

Privacy is Critical to our Happiness

Privacy is the root of real agency. It keeps us mentally sane; imagine if everyone around you knew everything about you. Creativity would be stifled. Vulnerability would mean nothing, hurting the possibility of developing genuinely deep relationships. Sacred things would cease to be as special. A person’s beliefs and opinions would be heavily affected and perhaps never fully develop like they should.

Our brains think to themselves on purpose. Our ability to talk to ourselves inside our heads and have a private space not only allows us to be individuals, but allows us to make mistakes and have a place to wallow and to grow without any outside judgment. We are naturally designed to have parts of ourselves that are private until we choose to allow them to be seen or understood. How could we bond as humans and let someone close know who we really are if the government is already broadcasting that information everywhere? The answer is that we couldn't.

Privacy is an unalienable right, and rightfully so. Some of our rights give us the power to hurt others if we so choose - speech, arms, capitalism - privacy is no different, and therefore should not be lost in the pursuit of security. It is absolutely worth the risk.

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

My name is Bryce Romney. I grew up in Dallas, Texas and attended a Montessori school as a child.
I'm a 5th year senior in an integrated undergrad/grad program called the Master of Information Systems Management (MISM). I sing with BYU Vocal Point and hope to pursue both marketing and music after I graduate this April. I feel passionately that privacy is something that we should protect, even if it means less control.

No comments:

Post a Comment