28th January: Data Privacy Day

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”
– Edward Snowden

How often do you use Google per day? What do you upload on Instagram, Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, and the like? Do you use any voice assistants? How many jokes and sarcastic comments do you exchange with your friends that could be misunderstood taken out of context? What about pictures of any kind of precarious situations?

I recently started reading some of Margaret Atwood’s works. Although I was interested in dystopian literature and the surveillance aspect before, her books got me thinking even more about privacy as a human right, but even more so as a privilege. The Handmaid’s Tale has gained popularity since the series was launched which also experienced hype. However, it is quite different from the book and I feel the surveillance part isn’t dealt with as nicely as in the book. Atwood started writing the novel during a visit to West Berlin in 1984 through which she experienced the GDR system which definitely shows in the book. And even though mass surveillance media wasn’t a real thing back then, the effect of a lack of privacy on a human being is terrifying as it is equated with a lack or loss of control over one’s life. The Heart Goes Last is another novel worth reading regarding this delicate topic. Who could imagine right now, in our soft cozy living circumstances, giving up privacy in order to gain safety? Giving up privacy because it’s the most convenient thing to do? This is basically what happens in The Heart Goes Last and the change of human behaviour is interesting yet shocking. How would you change if you knew, you were monitored in some way or another all the time? Would you speak about everything as freely as you do now?

Don’t get me wrong, some of the above-mentioned I’m guilty of, too. I am, however, always a little surprised by the vast number of people using the “I have nothing to hide”-argument. I find that hard to believe, to be honest. Or would you give away private information to random people, people you just met, friends, family? Don’t you carefully pick the personal information you’re giving to someone depending on who you’re dealing with? Because I know, I don’t need to have any secrets in order to want privacy. Anyways, it’s not my place to lecture anyone here right now but if you are interested in seven reasons why “I have nothing to hide” might not be a valid point, have a read through the article on the amnesty website. Forbes also published a piece about why it is so incredibly important and how to care about online privacy. What’s probably most important is to reflect on one’s own actions and start rethinking. It’s not necessary to change everything and get super paranoid, just be aware! For I think it’s often not so much that you don’t care but that diving into this abysmal rabbit hole is hugely inconvenient and, let’s be honest, freaking creepy. Nevertheless, I promise, it’s a step worth taking!