Privacy and Convenience in the Digital World

by Adam Gill

We often hear that we need more transparency for the sake of security. But we strongly believe that people don’t have to give up their right to keep their personal matters private. What is truly sacrificed when we cling to the right to privacy? And what do we really have to give up in order to remain secure? The very technologies that bring us a multitude of conveniences are the ones that open the door to government snooping and corporate data collection and even cybercrime. We do have the means to secure these programs, but security still often comes at the price of convenience.

Privacy is a Pain

To maintain privacy in the digital age, we have to keep all our devices and software updated while making sure that we are not agreeing to any updates that compromise our sensitive and personal information. There is a constant need for vigilance and double checking every tap and mouse click to be sure that we have all the bases covered. Many people don’t care much for this huge hassle, not exactly preferring to remain unsecured but choosing to ignore the dangers and hope that nothing bad happens so that they can just get on with what they need to do. Yet, many more are coming to realize the need for a near paranoid attitude to avoid the persistent intrusions of criminals, companies and our own governments.

Why is security, even for simple privacy’s sake, so difficult? Computer restarts, antivirus scans, software verifications – they eat up our time and patience. Luckily, we have systems that can more often than not handle all these updates in the background while we work, including our VPN tunneling, as long as we take the time to properly set them up. But then there are always glitches, which are just that annoying inherent part of all technology. Technologies are there to make life better, to serve our needs, and yet they can be such a headache. And even worse, its tendency to be buggy is what creates the whole cybersecurity issue. Our lives are so intertwined with technology that it is no longer possible to separate the flow of the average day from the pieces of the vast global network that we depend on to manage our daily lives. The myriad of vulnerabilities in that network are a striking reality, yet we are unable to tear ourselves free of the dangerous path.

What Makes the World Go Round

Knowledge is power, and this will never change despite all the new and hot sayings that people churn out to match the new and hot digital world. Knowledge is power, and it is not the friend of privacy. The logical conclusion is that anyone who wants power is going to be getting in line to crack the security that we have tried so carefully to build up to protect our privacy. But most of us aren’t even really thinking about the whole situation this way. We just have our stuff because we want life to be better, the sparkly awesome that we see on all the ads for the latest and greatest gadgets on the market.

Security is the boring side of technology, the part that we would rather a bunch of guys in some inconspicuous lab take care of while we enjoy the glamorous bits. This is a real problem today because if we are not really concerned with our own security then we cannot expect to have privacy. There are quite a few good guys out there who are fighting for privacy on our behalf, but they aren’t going to be coming over to check on our stuff. They fight to make sure that we have options, but we have to wake up and walk that last mile to keep the bad guys out. The problem with a life of convenience is that we don’t want to do even that much. We have all this stuff for a better life, remember? Why are we going to want to go through the trouble of disciplining ourselves to make it all work properly?

We should want to protect our data very much because it is what drives everything in our world today, from the price tag on that new gadget that you have your eye on, to whether you have the good credit to get it, to who is going to be silently there with you when you enjoy the whole flashy tech experience. We ooh and ahh at every new piece of tech and even at every exciting story about big data breaches and celebrity hacks, but we are not realizing that we live on the same planet, are inextricably connected to the same treacherous web. We don’t think about where we saw the ad for that gadget in the first place and how it got there, conveniently in front of our greedy eyes.

Capitalism feeds on our desire for new things, and it has used the Internet very well for its purposes. Free flowing information serves everyone, and the capitalists have benefited from it the most because they have been working hard to leverage it. The sellers of goods and services quickly jumped on the Internet and applied all that they have learned about the power of knowledge to captivate as many consumers as they could. We are buyers who want only to know how great the product will be in our hands. Sellers want to know a lot more, like where we buyers are, how much cash we have, and how badly we want them to take our money. We don’t know how to manage our data, but these companies certainly do. And the government may not handle our data very well, but they certainly know how to use it. And it of course follows that criminals have learned how to manipulate it just as well or even better.

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