Chuck Carroll

Privacy Shouldn't Require a Criminal Mindset

Published: 2022-12-20

One thing that's struck me as strange in the past few years of trying to gain more privacy and security over my digital life is how it seems that one must have a criminal mindset. It's not so much that I think I have something to hide, it's more of the principle and an issue of systemic privacy. "I have nothing to hide" is exactly like saying you don't believe in free speech because you have nothing to say. Why do we have window curtains in our house? Why do we have locks on our phones? It's because we all desire and expect to have some degree of privacy in our lives.

Some examples of what could be construed as "criminal behavior" that has come to mind in my own online life:

Sometimes some online services supposedly "require" personal information to open a simple account when they don't really need it. It's not that I inherently distrust online businesses to exploit my personal data for financial gain, it's also that I distrust the malicious people who exist that to break into those online services and steal user information (my information) with the possible intention of identity theft.

The thing about privacy is that you cannot predict what and how future politics come into play. Perhaps a medical procedure suddenly becomes illegal and your search or location history now becomes subject to a search warrant. Maybe the government and country in which you live takes a turn towards authoritarianism where politicians come to power and use lawful enforcement to punish their enemies. Maybe a new law passes that's used to arrest people who protest these politicians. I'm not saying that we should lie to the government. Social security, filing taxes, and traveling are just a few scenarios where you shouldn't lie to the government. I'm saying that we should take steps to protecting ourselves online and be careful what personal information we share.

I don't want a world where everyone's metadata is out there where companies have algorithms to manipulate people with targeted advertising. Yes, this is more of an ideological thing. Using privacy respecting software on my computer and phone is just me doing my part - a foot forward in the world I'd like to live in. If big tech companies had verifiable excellent privacy and security practices then there would be no need to take the measures I mentioned above. Preserving privacy and security online shouldn't require a criminal mindset.

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