Privacy/Security and Bullying

If all the sand in the Sahara is in the Sahara, and you have a mechanism to measure the exact shape of a single grain of sand, should the anthropomorphic sand try to hide their individual shapes?

Of course I think our privacy and security is important. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing 95% of what Snowden offers as stuff everyone should do. Like I said, the robot brain is creepy, it knows my unique shape among the billions and billions of other grains of sand. It could, theoretically, find me, know about my relationships, know what I read…it could know all those things about me and about every single other person who has a phone in their pocket, who is active online, who got an ID card at some point.

“We should armor ourselves using systems we can rely on every day. This doesn’t need to be an extraordinary lifestyle change. It doesn’t have to be something that is disruptive. It should be invisible, it should be atmospheric, it should be something that happens painlessly, effortlessly.”

My question is – why should I have to armor myself? This is not about saying “I have nothing to hide”, it’s about whether or not I need armor when I’m a single grain of sand. It’s about whether or not we can ever truly armor ourselves from the forces that be. It isn’t about technology, it’s about the fact that anyone with the will could, theoretically, use information about me against me. With or without technology. With or without my armor.

“What we do need to protect are the facts of our activities, our beliefs, and our lives that could be used against us in manners that are contrary to our interests. “

What should we do about bullying?

When I think about “bullying” as a concept, it is that. It is the reason we “need to protect” ourselves against the usage of personal information contrary to one’s interests. In middle school a bully takes a specific personal attribute, twists it into a weird negative fallacy, runs it though the rumor mill to proliferate the belief that the fallacy is truth, exacts punishment. The result was being “bullied”.

If you compare that process:

  1. Information (Laura has glasses)
  2. Falsified or out of context information (Glasses are nerdy.)
  3. Spreading of falsified information (Ha, ha look at Laura’s nerdy glasses. They’re so thick.)
  4. Exact punishment (steal Laura’s glasses and smash them, yay! While you’re at it, push Laura around a little.)
  5. Life / Psychological shattering (Laura can’t see and is bruised.)

with the worst case scenario (let’s use Snowden, he’s not allowed to go home, that seems pretty bad):

  1. Information (Snowden blew the whistle.)
  2. Falsified or out of context information (Snowden broke the law.)
  3. Spreading of falsified information (Insert Government arguments for why Snowden’s actions weren’t protected by whistleblower laws, amplified by bias or influenced media conglomerates)
  4. Exact punishment (“Enemy of the state” was it?)
  5. Life / Psychological shattering (Snowden is looking well at the moment, but he’s still not allowed to come home.)

You can maybe start to see the similarities between bullying and our meta privacy conversation? The bullies in the privacy/security discussion are those who are misusing data that doesn’t belong to them. There are guides on how to prevent a run in with a bully. They say things like “don’t give the bully a chance”, in privacy/security speak – “take steps towards greater online privacy”. These guides advise to “be brave” or “feel your inner strength”.

I’m trying to figure out what would need to shift in our perception to take that control. That’s what Snowden is doing. Taking control. But he’s not taking control just by protecting his data.

In middle school, you had to own your information, acknowledge the bits that had been falsified, constantly set the record straight. You didn’t armor yourself with anything more than your own audacity. Snowden got into a fight, but there are so many bullies…

When I read about privacy and security in the modern world, I feel helpless. And I’m better off than most because I am aware and I try. I make a constituted effort to protect my privacy. I still feel helpless, which leads me to believe that I’m looking at the issue all wrong.

I don’t feel helpless when I imagine that I’m not relevant in the seas of other personal data that’s all over the web. I feel nonexistent. Maybe we should be starting to talk about at what point irrelevancy enters the data picture? Maybe we should jump past prevention and start discussing what to do when the bully is in your face? Maybe we should be talking about how to stand up and look the bully in the eyes? How can we regain control?

We should tell an adult about the privacy/security bullies.

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