What is the matter with privacy? Now, more than ever, we have tools to share everything about us, from our ideas and words, to our geographical position, shopping habits and friendships. Almost every site has at least half a dozen options to share what are you doing, with your iPhone you have a wonderful tool to do it from the couch, and with Facebook you almost don't need to do anything outside your normal habits because the service automatically shares your actions.
So, why is privacy so important?
- Decision: This is the main reason why in a world obsessed with sharing, you should be defending your own privacy as well. Everything about what you decide to share becomes just as important as what you keep quiet. We have the right to control what information is available about ourselves.
- Security: Of course, the first answer that comes to mind is money. You want to protect your bank information, credit card details and passwords so they won't fall into criminal hands. But this is just one of the many aspects of this issue. You also need privacy in the moments you feel more vulnerable and can be attacked, injured and even mocked.
- Business: To have private information about what you do or what you know can give you the upper-hand in some business deals, or let you make the best possible decision.
- Trails: This concern is more problematic, because even if we control what we are sharing we can't know at a certain moment all the information about us that is available. I may be revealing a little too much about myself, and with Internet's eternal memory that can became an issue.
- Targeted advertisements: They may be useful, but also invasive. These days, it’s possible for an ad to know more about you than your closest friends; your information is being gathered and carefully used to craft irresistible ads meant specifically for you. We want to believe in free will, but how much can these ads affect our decisions?
- Political Oppression: This may be something less important in some countries, but the things you do, say or even watch can result in prison or death in some countries. At the very least, you may end up with your name on some black list.
- Fear of being stigmatized: Because of what you do, or even who you are, you can be unjustly judged and stigmatized. Because of that, some people want to maintain privacy related to their religion, sexual orientation, personal hobbies and all of the things that make us unique.
- Modesty: You don't want to share everything you do or think, not because you are ashamed of it, but because you just don't want to share that with everybody.
- Because it is your right: At the end of the list, there's something stronger than all of these reasons: You have the right to your privacy.
- Why is privacy important to you?
Fight for privacy
Because all these reasons and many more, privacy has to be something we defend. In the news, we are already beginning to see numerous attacks on this right.
- Bill would make wearing masks during riots a crime
- Court tells government: Hands off babies' DNA
- Facebook tracking is under scrutiny
- Privacy concerns at airports: Watchdog
- Patients Have Security Concerns On Data Sharing
- New technology comes with new privacy concerns
How to protect your privacy
Besides trying new bills that protect your privacy from marketing companies or the government, there are many things you can do to protect your own privacy:
- Look for privacy statements on websites, sales materials, and forms you fill out. If a website claims to follow a set of established voluntary standards, read the standards. Don't assume they provide the level of privacy you want.
- Control who has access to your computer: Use passwords to your personal accounts, your computer and never leave your session open. You can also turn off your internet or computer when you are not using it.
- Clean your computer: Use antivirus and anti-malware programs to routinely check your computer, you should also clean cookies and supercookies.
- HTTPS everywhere: Try to use an https secure connection whenever you can.
- Delete securely: If you are deleting information from your computer, or you are thinking about changing your computer (or throwing it away) use secure deletion programs like East-Tec Eraser or other methods.
- Use common sense: Be careful what you share, the web has a long memory and something that is out there is really hard to delete.
- Earlier this year, we published a list of articles about Privacy, you should check out those stories.