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Why Privacy Matters

by John Ruder

Nov 19, 2021

Why should we care about data privacy?

Privacy is a human right.

It's up there with all the other rights we care about: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press- the rights that keep us free.

When others control our data and we don't, they have power over us. We've all encountered the concept that "Knowledge is Power". It's true.

In any situation where one party has knowledge that the other party does not have, the party with information and intelligence have significantly more control over the other. This is the case for all kinds of situations and interactions, but especially in commerce. And politics.

Classic economics says a 'fair trade' can only happen when both parties engaged in a transaction have the same information. In today's surveillance economy, consumers have a very raw deal.

In most cases, the companies we are buying products and services from know way more about us than we know about them. We are also typically unaware that they know so much about us.

They use that knowledge about our personal data to their advantage. They have power over us.

They are able to manipulate us into buying their products, clicking their ads, and consuming their content in ways that we might not if we had a better understanding of what was happing or had more control of the situation.

Mostly, this doesn't hurt us much. Sometimes it hurts us some. Sometimes it hurts us a lot.

The companies that have our data use it in all kinds of ways that we don't know or understand. Do you want to live in a world where you are constantly at a disadvantage?

Most of the companies that have this data aren't intentionally out to hurt us in any way. But whose best interests are they acting in?  Theirs, or yours?

There are bad actors out there too. Though they may represent a small portion of those have your data, they can do real harm to us. The easier your data is to get, the more risk we have from those without scruples.

Wait, I have nothing to hide. So why should I worry about data privacy?

This is the most frequent objection that many raise when they don't see what the fuss is all about.

It's fair to ask back, who do you have nothing to hide from?

Regardless of which political party, religious group, ethnic group, or other things about you that comprise your identity, there are others out there who may not have your best interests at heart. Or they may not like you because of who you are. Or what you believe.

Those who may be opposed to you may not have power over you now. But that could change.

New people and groups can gain power over you without warning. You end up working for them. They get elected. They get financial power over you. They attain leadership in other ways.

Now they are in power and they don’t like you. Do you want them to know everything about you? Do you want them to have Knowledge as power over you?

While it is incredibly unfortunate that we have to worry about bad actors and the potential harm they can cause, we believe that keeping our privacy takes away power from those who might abuse it.

When we have transparency and control over our personal data, we can be sure other people can't abuse Knowledge about us to exert power.

Why does privacy matter?

It keeps us free.

. . .