Privacy in the internet age

Occasionally I allow myself the luxury of a non-wine-related post. This is one such occasion.

I have been thinking about the issue of privacy recently. Basically, I don’t have any, as a user of the internet, with a Gmail account, and publishing a large part of my life on social media. I doesn’t bother me, and yet it does. Let me explain.

Nowadays it is pretty much impossible to live as a normal person and have privacy. We are continually creating data that could, potentially, be used to track and reconstruct our lives and movements. At the moment this doesn’t bother me: I’m not trying to hide illegal activity, I pay my taxes, and we have a government which, as governments go, is fairly benign. We live in a country where the freedom of the individual is cherished, and the machinery of the state respects this, more or less.

But the loss of privacy does bother me, because we can’t always guarantee that our government will be benign. Even governments that start out with good intentions can start displaying authoritarian and paranoid behaviours directed against people they think are against them. They see themselves as guardians of the public good, but sometimes their perspective becomes distorted and their insecurity leads them to persecute those who disagree, or speak out against them. They begin to see legitimate opposition as a threat. This could happen in the UK, and we are displaying a dangerous complacency if we assume that it couldn’t.

As soon as a government or state starts behaving in this way, they now have tools to track and monitor their citizens in ways that George Orwell could never have anticipated when he wrote 1984. If you, as a citizen, wanted to stand up to a totalitarian regime, you would find it virtually impossible, now that you have conceded so much in the way of privacy in the internet age. How could we oppose or resist state-sanctioned evil, when the state has a way of tracking our every movement?

So privacy is an important issue, and even though it may not affect us personally, at the moment, it’s a discussion we need to get involved with.

1 comment to Privacy in the internet age

  • Alex lake

    Interesting subject. I get the impression I’m a little less optimistic than you about the current powers (not necessarily “the government”) and already feel reluctant to make too many anti-establishment pronouncements (although this is arguably one!) in public for fear of possible reprisal.

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