This may sound absurd to some of you that either speak with me on a regular basis, or that have been reading this blog or others that I frequent on a regular basis: I sometimes struggle to offer a concise, clear, sound answer to this post’s topic.
I don’t necessarily see this as a failure, but (perhaps as a self-defence mechanism) more as proof that I need to work on condensing my ideas into ‘bite-sized’ fragments that I can then build the big picture from. I know, it sounds silly easy but I often have problems condensing problems to make them immediately approachable to other. So, you ask me, why do I persistently worry about privacy in the digital space? Common reasons why individuals aren’t concerned with their privacy follow (in no particular order, and not a comprehensive list):
- If it means that business can make things cheaper than me, then who cares?
- If it means that my children are safer, or that criminals are more effectively prosecuted, then who cares?
- As long as it doesn’t interfere with my daily life, then who cares?
- If I have nothing to hide, then what do I care?
- If it safeguards me from terrorism, then who cares?
- If it only affects people in other nations, then who cares (more of an American position, but it’s important to deal with)?
I can’t spend too much time on these, but I want to address most of them, in part so that I can steal from this post in the coming weeks.
Different countries have different privacy laws, and different attitudes towards what should be counted as private information. As Peter Fleischer rightly notes, this often means that citizens of various nation-states are often confused about their digital privacy protections – in part because of the influx of foreign culture (and the presumed privacy standards in those media) – and consequently are unaware of their nation’s privacy resources, or lack thereof.
Google Corporation has recently begun to suggest that a global data protection system has to be implemented. In his private blog (which isn’t necessarily associated with his work with Google) Fleischer notes that,
…citizens lose out because they are unsure about what rights they have given the patchwork of competing regimes, and the cost of compliance for businesses risks chilling economic activity. Governments often struggle to find any clear internationally recognised standards on which to build their privacy legislation.
The ultimate goal should be to create minimum standards of privacy protection that meet the expectations and demands of consumers, businesses and governments. Such standards should be relevant today yet flexible enough to meet the needs of an ever changing world. Such standards must also respect the value of privacy as an innate dimension of the individual . . . we should work together to devise a set of standards that reflects the needs of a truly globalised world. That gives each citizen certainty about the rules affecting their data, and the ability to manage their privacy according to their needs. That gives businesses the ability to work within one framework rather than dozens. And that gives governments clear direction about internationally recognised standards, and how they should be applied. (Source)
I’m back to Linux after spending time in Windows to work on my thesis (it’s in the .docx format that I railed about previously, before I knew much about the format and, because of the importance of the document, I’m loathe to transfer it to another format), which means that I have access to all of the links that I’ve been gradually storehousing over the past few months. I have a lot to talk about, but one of the most pressing surrounds ‘moral’ arguments directed towards blocking online ads.
If you use the Mozilla Firefox web browser, then you have access to some of the most potent ad-blocking software that is currently available to you. If you install the Adblock Plus extension, easily 98% of the ads that you’d normally see online go away – it’s wonderful. You can hit up websites, get content, and not be distracted by ads.
In related news, Google Corporation recently bought Doubleclick. Doubleclick is a massive online advertising company, one that buys ‘banner spaces’ and sells them to interested parties. Doubleclick logs the IP addresses (the number associated with your computer’s online activities) when you click an ad. Google is currently facing a barrage of challenges from the EU in light of their purchase because their internal database, combined with Doubleclick’s, will allow Google to effectively target discrete individuals because of the substantial digital dossiers they will be able to covertly collect.