So, How Much is My Privacy Worth to Me?

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7 Responses

  1. One thing I’ve noticed about the loss of privacy is that it’s ostensibly voluntary on our part.* We choose to engage in certain activities that expose ourselves. Those include things like the car driving app you mention as well as, for example, the choice to use the internet, especially the choice to subscribe to an internet service at home.

    You (or others) might say that just because it’s a choice doesn’t mean it’s not in some ways authoritarian. I’d agree with that.

    But there are counterpoints to the claim that this is all a loss of privacy. For one thing, I suspect the loss of privacy in these situations is less than the loss of privacy attendant on living in a stereotypical small town, where everyone supposedly knows everyone else’s business. And now, even in that stereotypically small town (or a close-knit ethnic enclave in a big city, like the one I live in), we can do, errm, some things a lot more privately, thanks to Amazon and the internet.

    Another counterpoint is that the type of privacy loss we’re faced with here is primarily either constrained a gamble with modernity.** It’s constrained because while Kroger knows what we buy, my neighbor probably doesn’t. It’s a gamble because we’re hoping we’re not one of the 3% (or whatever it is) people who’s information is hacked or that even if we are hacked, there’s some sort of insurance or compensation mechanism that lowers at least some of our liability. (I say “primarily” because there may very well be secondary or tertiary effects that go beyond the “constrained”/”gamble” way of looking at things.)

    *I might as well shill my own post on the matter:
    **I hate that word, but it seems the right one here.Report

    • Some of my concerns come with, I guess you’d call it cross-platform sharing? So, like, the Kroger sends the information on what I buy to my health insurer, who suddenly starts sending me “nudges” about all the chocolate I eat and how I’d be better off with kale. Stuff that might fall under the heading of “concern trolling” but is creepier because it is an agency who has some say in things….or like, Twitter forwarding “data” from what I tweet to my doctor as a suggestion I might be depressed…that kind of stuff. Couple this with the suggestion of “red flag” laws (which could be horrifically misapplied) and, well….lots of people who did a lot actually-innocent stuff find themselves under suspicion.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to fillyjonk says:

        …“red flag” laws (which could be horrifically misapplied)…

        Not ‘could be’, but ‘already are’. Expect a lot of those red flags to find themselves facing court challenges as unconstitutional for lack of due process.Report

  2. Chip Daniels says:

    Like Gabriel mentions, one point of view is that we are no more anonymous than we would have been in a small town where everyone knows everyone.

    But a counterpoint is that in that old environment, people knew the rules of privacy and could exert some control. Like for instance, you knew that if you wrote a letter the outside was public information, but the inside was private. And if you heard a rumor you could assess its validity based on your knowledge of the speaker.

    In the modern world we have lost the ability to understand the rules and control. Like right now, you really have no way of knowing who is browsing through your computer and web history, or who is hacking into your financial files.

    You can use various types of firewalls and software protections, but for every locksmith, there is a lockpick.

    This asymmetry is what is a bit unnerving, the realization that others can see us, but we can’t know who.Report

    • It’s been more than 20 years since I was writing internal white papers at a giant telecom about the end of personal privacy. The operating systems on personal computers were inherently insecure. The applications were buggy. Packets were transmitted without encryption. The federal government was opposed to letting us have strong encryption at all. No one had a clue about how to attach metadata to personal data that would indicate whether and how far it could be copied or how to enforce that.

      We’re not that much better than we were then.Report

  3. Damon says:

    A very long time ago at a company far far away..I watched a demo of a program that was “ostensibly” only for law enforcement. All you needed was a name or phone number. The result was: address, licenses, credit data, census data, demographic info, # of folks in the house, mortgage info, you name it. Spider web lines to your know family members in other locales. All the same info above on them. The previous owner’s of the house you lived in and all the above info on them. This was over a decade ago.

    We’re already screwed. I’m sure this program, or a modified one, is available for non leo now. I’ll never have a dongle to monitor my driving. If face, I won’t buy a car that has speed contrail on it. You know, the ones the Europeans are making. Won’t be long before they arrive in the US. I have a facebook account but rarely use it…no need to build a more complete profile. Periodically think about cancelling it….Report