All too often, I meet people who just don’t seem to understand the most basic principle of personal privacy. Privacy is the state of being free from unwanted or undue intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life or affairs - the freedom to be let alone. I believe privacy is a fundamental human right. We all have the right to protect our personal information, our whereabouts, our activities, our interests, etc. Unfortunately, governments and commercial entities are becoming more obsessed with invading our private life and using the details of our lives for their own purposes. Advertising agencies snoop through our online searches to determine what products or services we’re likely to spend money on. Government agencies listen on our phone calls and read our emails without warrants under the guise of “national security” and the bogus concept of protecting us from made-up threats.
Potential employers frequently spy on the social media posts of job applicants while current employers monitor your posts to make sure you don’t say something you shouldn’t. Banks are required to submit information to the government about transactions exceeding $10,000 USD under the pretense of preventing money laundering and terrorist funding. AT&T allows the NSA direct access to their network to allow real-time monitoring and recording of telephone conversations. You name it and some company or government agency has come up with a bogus reason to invade your privacy.
The scary part of all this is that most people I’ve encountered are perfectly fine with this. They’ve accepted it as part of the world in which we live and a necessary evil. Famed historian Christopher Dawson said it best.
“As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy.”
In the United States, we proclaim liberty. However, liberty is void when we surrender any part of it. Liberty is freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice. When your every move, purchase, opinion, activity, etc. is monitored, shared, and used without your permission and control, liberty cannot exist because privacy - the very thing that provides liberty, is now destroyed.
In today’s ever-connected world, privacy has become a hot-button issue. Governments across the globe are censoring their citizens and controlling more and more aspects of their lives. From North Korea and China to Russia and the United States, the government watches every move of the people and seems hell-bent on introducing more and more laws taking away more and more freedoms. Privacy is always the first thing to go. When the government knows what you’re doing, they know what to stop and how to control you.
Then there’s the plethora of identity thieves and cyber criminals who love to take out loans and open bank accounts in the name of another individual. There’s nothing like free money and these guys often get away clean because their crimes are so hard to prove in most cases. The more personal information they can find on you, the easier it is to impersonate you. It doesn’t take a genius to realize nobody else is going to protect your privacy for you. Turn on the news any day this week and you’ll likely hear about the latest in the endless string of data breaches where hackers made off with credit card numbers, personal information, etc. Even if the company that suffered the breach took the proper precautions, your information is now in the hands of someone else. Never trust a company with your personal information. They have insurance policies to cover their hide when something goes wrong - it’s still YOUR information that gets compromised.
Since the Snowden leaks, many websites and products have been created to guide the average person in protecting their privacy online. However, far fewer resources exist to help people protect their privacy and security in the physical world. That’s my personal goal. It’s not about helping people hide what they do or be sneaky. It’s about helping people protect their freedom and allow them to be themselves without the fear of their employer, their government, or any other entity interfering.
Often, the argument people fall back on is that if you’re doing nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide. That argument assumes everything hidden must be wrong. If you agree with that statement, go have sexual relations with your significant other on the front lawn tonight. Start using public restrooms and leave the doors wide open. Instead of sending emails or texts, shout your message loud and clear for all to hear. Give me your password to your Facebook, Instagram, email account, etc. Show your family and friends all the pictures you have on your phone. Don’t ever whisper to another person ever again. Tell us all what medications you’re taking and what medical conditions you have. Don’t forget to tell everyone about that one embarrassing thing you searched Google for ten years ago…
If these things sound absurd to you, perhaps it’s time you reconsider the meaning of privacy. It’s not about hiding, it’s about controlling who has access to what details of your life. Your employer doesn’t have the right to interfere in your personal life. Your favorite online retailer doesn’t have the right to know what other interests you have. Facebook doesn’t have the right to know everyone you consider a friend. Your government doesn’t have the right to spy on your every move and every word. It’s as simple as that. Privacy is the right to be let alone. As a human being, you have the right to privacy no matter what anyone else says. Exercise your right and start taking back your privacy.