We live in a world made more convenient by giving up certain privacies. Information security is increasingly important and difficult, social media is a breeding ground for personal oversharing, Google and Facebook collect your data to sell more advertising and even Disney World is making it more convenient to visit parks when you give up a little personal privacy. Privacy has become a hot topic in a post-Snowden world, but are we having the right conversation?
A breakdown of democracy
Let’s say for example that the government can collect data on individuals and use it as a way to combat obesity or climate change. Data could become the policy driver, data would give government the power to influence people based on information collected. Personal mobile devices and wearable technology make it easy for citizens to be reached, and they could be reached when they were about to take an action that would contribute to an undesirable effect and nudged in a different direction. Such methods are already being used in the UK.
Too much privacy could also be problematic to democracy. If people kept entirely to themselves without being asked to share any data, it would become impossible to evaluate issues, form opinions and debate. Citizens can surely lead private lives, but completely private lives would have a negative effect on the public as a whole. Finding the right balance is a political issue, one their needs to be an ongoing conversation about.
Big data, small decisions
The constant collection of big data that’s fed back to us in bits and pieces through algorithms we may not understand can give the impression of choosing for ourselves from a wide variety of options, when in fact it’s doing the opposite. A lack of privacy and excess of information could actually limit our choices through the automation of data processing.
Without certain privacies, an individual’s ability to make choices about lifestyle fades. Decision making could become more automated with limited algorithms deciding what information we get and digest for ourselves.
We live in a time where even social interaction is laced with the need for information security. Privacy is not just an issue for a few people not paying attention, it’s impossible to live a normal life without inputting personal data into the system in this digital age. The data we provide allows others to influence and change our behavior. Privacy issues affect everyone. The more we think about it, from different perspectives, legal, ethical, economic, political, the better chance we have to move forward with more control over both privacy and democracy.
Let’s keep this conversation going. Where do you stand on privacy issues?