Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes
Paying attention to issues of privacy is important. The threats to privacy take on three basic forms; threats by Government, Culture and Technology. Understanding the “enemies” of privacy and what to do to slow their progress is essential to maintaining and regaining the freedom of privacy.
Government action in the US and elsewhere has become an enemy to privacy. The USA PATRIOT Act, FISA, Bank “know your customer” requirements and other federal, state and local laws all act as an infection of the country which attacks the privacy of citizens. Beating the infection helps to immunize against future attacks, but succumbing to an infection can be deadly. The laws mentioned here, and many others, have eroded many basic freedoms. One of these freedoms being the freedom to include a confidentiality clause in a banking contract.
We are living in a world where most people are repeatedly exposed to privacy reducing situations and have come to accept such invasions as normal and even desirable. Things like “security features,” shoppers cards, and heavy reliance on credit consumption are a huge part of most people’s daily lives. The phrase “if you aren’t doing anything wrong then you should have nothing to hide” does not seem inappropriate to many people.
Many people around the world own cell phones. Many cell phones record video and photos along with being able to record voice. Many public places, including shopping centers and public streets, in the US and abroad are under constant video surveillance. The ability to use technology to capture, sort and store vast amounts of information on individuals is staggering. It is a fact of life that if you engage in most regular activities of living you will be subject to some kind of privacy invasion.
Three as One
All three forms of threats to privacy act in concert and support and advance the others. They all work to erode the privacy of citizens of the US and other countries. What then can be done?
Beating the System
Overcoming these enemies is not achieved by running from them but from using the same tools to our advantage to advance the cause of privacy. The political process can be harnessed to support privacy issues as outlined by Naomi Wolf, the author of End of America, in Give Me Liberty. Her analysis of one of the reasons why constitutional protections, and with them privacy, have been whittled away is interesting and may be a key to understanding how to overcome the common enemy. The analysis can be summed up in the phrase of a law school professor of mine who described a good way to understand why a case went the way it did; “follow the money.”
On the cultural front, creating a strong culture favoring privacy must be done by the individuals who care about privacy issues. This counter culture of privacy is fostered by following appropriate recommendations on this site and by others in the privacy community and implementing appropriate actions recommended in the upcoming book on How to Vanish.
Technology can also be used to our own advantage. The portability and ubiquity of cameras, video and audio capabilities has been and should be used to keep authorities from abusing their authority. As long as you are recording actions done in a public place and not interfering in any way with what is happening, you are probably within your rights to record an event. Although they might not like the fact that they are being recorded, and they will probably respond in different ways, you can record and post behavior that is inappropriate.
There are many threats to privacy, most of them falling into these three categories. To combat these enemies we need to harness their just power and use them to promote the individual freedoms that should be protected. Using anonymous web surfing, using the tools and techniques in the book How To Vanish and protecting your tax domicile can all contribute to stronger personal and financial privacy.