By Xinye Ji
“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.”
It’s difficult to overstate how much privacy we give up to have access to services such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, or even Amazon. With every click, whim, or action, we tell the services we interact with a little about ourselves bit by bit. As time goes on a clearer profile of each person is created, and interesting conclusions can be drawn from these profiles.
The movie Yes Man satirizes the worst case scenario when Carl, Jim Carrey’s character, is arrested on charges of potential terrorism due taking flying lessons, studying Korean, approving a loan to a fertilizer company, meeting an Iranian woman, and buying plane tickets at the last minute. While the situation was comically exaggerated, the film brings up an interesting social commentary of the state of our privacy. We run the risk of pushing ourselves further into a surveillance state.
Speculatively, one could argue that applying this data aggregation comes from a place of good will. In fact, terrorism prevention is a frequent argument that the US government makes to continue the activities of the NSA. Aside from crime prevention, there are many different applications to utilize aggregate data. For example, aggregated data now informs us about real-time traffic. Our aggregated profiles can tell us about possible car repair. Are these conveniences worth giving away your information? What about if Target could tell you if you were possibly pregnant based off of your purchases? Or what if Facebook could tell if someone was about to commit suicide? Or what if Microsoft could tell you that you have pancreatic cancer a month before you knew it yourself? Are these advancements in technology worth the loss of our privacy?
This blog post might seem a bit eclectic and contrarian to itself. I don’t intend to draw any conclusions of this topic as we could go on forever about it. However, I do believe this ethical dilemma is something that we, as a society, have to decide on in the near future. For the time being, however, I hope that the average citizen considers and understand how to protect one’s liberties in the digital age.