Why Does Privacy Matter?

In discussing recent concerns about the NSA’s surveillance programs and the Xbox One’s always-on Kinect, the most common response I’ve gotten is indifference. And it’s very reasonable to think that, if you already share lots of information online anyway and if you have “nothing to hide,” you shouldn’t need to worry about your privacy. However, there are still good reasons that you should be concerned about privacy, learn about the privacy implications of legislation, terms of service, and technologies, and speak up about concerns. Here’s a summary of reasons you should care, most of which come from this excellent Lifehacker/EFF article.

  1. The more systems your personal data is stored in, the more opportunities malicious individuals have to steal it for identity theft purposes. So you can’t say that you have nothing to hide–your personally-identifying information is something to hide.
  2. If your health insurance company knows everything about your behavior, they can find unjust reasons to deny your claims. Eat a “triple coronary bypass” burger at The Vortex restaurant one time? Funny name to you, pre-existing condition to them. Think about unjust trouble health insurance companies have given you or your friends in the past–the more they know, the more trouble they can give you.
  3. Thinking specifically about the Kinect, are you ever in your living room in your underwear? If photos/videos of you ever got out, they could be shared online and manipulated in a pornographic way.
  4. Even if you think the company you’re sharing your information with wouldn’t do anything bad with it, the government can easily get access to your info from that company. And the government does extensive investigations of everyone associated with suspected criminals. Are you sure no one on your Facebook friends list will ever be suspected of a crime? The more information about you that companies collect online, the more likely you are to be unjustly involved in a criminal investigation.
  5. Even if none of the above reasons convince you you need privacy, others certainly do for their own safety and the safety of their families: victims of domestic violence, targets of violence or racial or personal-moral reasons, political and human rights activists, whistleblowers, police officers, and public figures. By going along with systems that are gradually making privacy impossible, you’re inadvertently endangering these individuals’ safety.

If you want to learn more about privacy issues and what you can do about them, read the article I got most of these points from or visit EFF’s privacy page.

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