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Even before computers really hit their stride at the turn of the century, it was easy to see the surveillance infrastructure we’re so accustomed to today just finding its legs. Cameras popped up — visibly — in department stores, gas stations, grocery stores, movie theaters, and parking lots.
Even those places who had used cameras for years, like banks, seemed to make an effort to put those mechanical eyes in the sky in full view as a deterrent to would-be criminals.
As camera technology has become more sophisticated, it has become smaller. Those huge, black fiberglass domes you’d see in most department stores have been replaced with rows upon rows of small, individual camera domes, dotting the ceiling like a grid.
Technology is even better now. Mini-cameras look back at you from the gas station. Most computers and phones come with webcams that pose a potential security risk. Traffic and street cameras line the roads, often with resolution clear enough to identify civilians when paired with facial recognition.
Even if you disregard the visual threat, the data you willingly provide to social networking sites and internet service providers can be used to track you. Couple that with ‘digital fingerprinting’, which tracks which unique equipment regularly visits what websites, and those remaining gaps in personal identity begin to fill in.
Personal data is trackable. It’s no stretch to understand that governments and corporations have a vested interest in knowing more about you, the citizen and the consumer, and it’s why the war for privacy was lost before it even started.
It was pretty much inevitable, and it wasn’t to protect your freedom.
Let’s put the Snowden revelations aside for a second. Pretend we don’t know about PRISM and NSA data collection, FISA Courts and the Patriot Act. While we’re at it, let’s assume that we’re experiencing world peace and that nobody is at war with anybody, that there is no crime, and no justifiable reason for wiretaps, stingrays, and watch lists to exist.
This massive data collection would have still happened. But why?
There’s money to be made in knowing about your consumers, your constituents, and the public at large. Sociologists collect data with polls and surveys. The Census Bureau captures population and demographic statistics. News networks monitor ratings and readership.
A great example: Target Corporation uses customer purchase history to predict what items they might need and sends coupons to entice them to shop again, sometimes to disastrous results.
Alone, data is just a tool to assist in decision-making. Sometimes, it’s a justification. Sometimes, it’s a gut check on an idea. But data is inherently neutral — neither good nor bad — until someone decides to use it.
Today, the wholly negative perspective on privacy comes from Big Data capture and a government-sanctioned surveillance dragnet that seems to nod eerily to Minority Report and 1984, but the truth is, data collection would have happened anyway by corporations looking to profit from knowing their customers better.
The funny thing is, we give most of that information away for free.
Social networks make you a product, not a user.
Whether you consider social media moguls like Mark Zuckerberg to be creative visionaries or business-savvy entrepreneurs, you’ve got to realize that websites like Facebook, Google, and Twitter aren’t inherently valuable. Because these sites are social media platforms, they’re only as valuable as their number of active users, who willingly provide information that makes them a target for potential advertisers.
At their core, these websites are information gold mines, who stand to make a huge profit by brokering that information to companies that want you to buy their products and services.
However, it would be naive to think that surrendering that information isn’t also compromising privacy. Even though it doesn’t sound as immediately threatening as government surveillance and anti-terrorism watch lists, providing your information to an online user registration form only changes which potential list you might be on and who might be interested.
You’re being tracked, with or without your consent.
So let’s say that you’re worried about prying government eyes, heartless advertisers, and social media titans pedaling likes. You don’t enjoy the idea that someone is potentially stealing your information with tracking tools just because you wanted to catch up on the news.
What can you really do about it?
That answer depends on your technological savvy, and what services you can live without. Maybe you can ditch that Twitter account that you never really used or delete Instagram from your phone.
Facebook might be more difficult if you’re really into sharing what you had for dinner tonight, or the photos of your family that are circulated for the world to see (by both good guys & bad guys). Keep in mind that it’s not as simple as deactivating your account.
Social networks want all the information they can get, and some will track you around the web even if you don’t use their service, to learn what they can from your digital footprint and browsing habits.
And remember, anything that you have placed on the Internet remains on a server someplace waiting for someone to access and read it. Even if you have deactivated accounts, that information is still being used with or without your consent.
And none of this still broaches how your ISP and the government can track your devices and collect data from the physical lines running through your home.
This goes farther back than you think.
Though talk about the war for privacy had been brewing for years before Edward Snowden fled the country with information regarding the NSA’s surveillance apparatus, that was the tipping point for the American public.
The idea that hidden courts had authorized sweeping surveillance on American citizens without public consent — sometimes in the face of Constitutional rights — brought a conversation about privacy into the public eye. And all of that was in 2013.
Facebook has been around since 2004. MySpace was 2003. Friendster was 2002. By the time talk about privacy reached a tipping point, any war for privacy was already lost by the general public.
The conversation we’ve been having since Snowden’s revelations has been about damage control, terrorism and safety, and continuing an infrastructure where the fight for privacy is an uphill battle.
At this point, due of the myriad ways to track and analyze data, the number of interested parties, and the lack of technical knowledge surrounding the general population … the fight for privacy is unlikely to gain much ground.
Source Credit: http://bit.ly/2jWP0VP
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