Privacy can be defined as: The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people. As you read this, as I’m sure you’re all aware, the only way to enjoy ‘true privacy’ in let’s say: Michigan is to go off the grid and move out to a hollowed out log in the woods. With the squirrels as your co-workers and moss and berries your Taco Bell, you will be free from the ever increasing digital scrutiny of our age. I know what you’re thinking: “But, I don’t want to move out to the woods. I’m a human being and therefore I require contact with other human beings to live a full, healthy life?” I’m thinking the same thing. As our readings for this class suggest it is virtually impossible to experience privacy today.
Technological marvels like the internet and carrying around handheld computers that double as phones has changed the world. But I think it has made us too complacent. We can plug a credit card reader into our phones and order and pay for Cantonese take-out while on the toilet but we can’t prevent data sharing firms from tracking our purchases, analyzing our purchases as if our primary function on this earth is to provide consumer research to amazon, and selling the data to other data mining firms.
Discomfort with purchase tracking and data mining are rather weak complaints, to be sure, when compared to the complaints to someone who lives in Haiti and must struggle to find fresh drinking water. Yet, I feel our complacency, and dare I say it: ‘laziness’(I’m lying on a bed eating potato chips as I write this. Come on!) have allowed data mining to occur with few obstructions. And this gives way to more sinister surveillance such as the recent AP phone tapping scandal. If enough people don’t make enough noise about their lack of digital privacy then nothing will change.
My questions to you guys and gals are:
Do you think we, as average citizens of the Midwest, do enough to thwart the surveillance efforts of data mining firms and even our own government?
What actions could be effective against these powerful entities considering that data mining and surveillance is more or less legal?