Privacy is the right to protect your personal information and actions from other people, a right we all must have and protect for others. We need it so that we can avoid social issues of all kinds, from simple (embarrassment over a weird hobby) to serious (having crimes committed against us). Privacy is about respecting individuals.
We claim that we don’t want to be under constant supervision. But we – sometimes willingly and sometimes unknowingly – release our hold on our privacy when we use the Internet and smartphones. The emergence of Internet liberated us, gave us freedom of speech, but then we found ourselves under constant surveillance. The information that third parties can take from our online profiles, browsing histories, social media activities, and Internet-enabled devices is alarming. So we need to protect our privacy. But how?
Everyone has something to hide
Generally, we divide people into bad and good, criminals and citizens. Criminals want privacy so they can steal from or harm others, from celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton to surgery patients in Lithuania, without repercussions. But citizens want privacy, too. We abide by the law but still have our locks on our phones, passwords on our accounts, three-digit numbers on our credit cards, all to protect our privacy. And this is perfectly normal because no one has to know who we are and what we do.
Respect and reputation
Privacy lets us manage our friendships, work relationships, and general status in society. Of course, we can’t have complete control, but we can protect our images and reputations by choosing how we share our personal information. Disclosing secrets at will builds trust, and an invasion of privacy may break fragile but valuable connections. How others judge us can affect our opportunities, friendships, and overall well-being. Although we can’t completely control our reputations, we must have some ability to protect them from unfair harm.
Old mistakes and new beginnings
Most people change and grow throughout their lives, making mistakes and learning from them, coping with dramatic events, or simply moving in unexpected directions. Privacy nurtures this ability by allowing us to put parts of our past behind us. An invasion of privacy may detach us from society if we feel wrongly judged by others.
Internet and privacy
The Internet has had an enormous effect on our privacy. Whether we apply for a loan or a job or just start a social media account, our data must remain private. Only a few relevant parties need to know how much money we earn or when our flight departs or where we live. But our likes, shares, and preferences online reveal much more of our information than we realize, and to many more people than we think. We get tailored ads and relevant content on the Internet, which may help us, but who else does it help and how?
Why should we care about our digital privacy?
We built this network and now continue to develop technology and systems that will make us more productive and help us solve complex problems. It will also entertain us and keep us connected, and the intoxication of these instant pleasures makes it difficult to detach ourselves from them. We talk about ourselves and others, take photos, share locations, express opinions, and become careless of our privacy. Too often we give permission to companies to take our personal data and control our phones even when we turn them off. We don't know who we invite, and we give up our privacy without knowing. Without knowing what data these apps collect, we can’t decide whether to share, and this makes us easily controlled, as seen in Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.
From a security and privacy perspective, we are concerned about the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data contained in systems embedded deep in our nation’s critical infrastructure. One of the pillars of freedom is control over our lives. If we lose that to entities that continually collect our data, we can certainly say that we have a problem.
Digital privacy is vital for us. And we should know how to protect ourselves. Our next article will cover some of the steps you can take to protect your privacy.