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What's the point of privacy?

privacy practicality

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#1 Matthew_Thepc

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 02:02

One thing that I've heard mentioned in many discussions about privacy (on Neowin and off) is the whole "what's the point of privacy" argument, and it usually either gets ignored or a wishy-washy "it's important because it's privacy!" kind of non-answer.

basically, why is online privacy (mostly in the context of ad companies) important? What does it matter if Google tracks me so that they can display ads that are more relevant to me? What does it matter if Google scans all of my emails to deliver better ads?

The two legitimate reasons I could think of:
- How the company handles your privacy in one area could be indicative of how they handle your data in general
- The "filter bubble" effect http://en.wikipedia....i/Filter_bubble

Also in corporate settings where privacy is paramount because of trade secrets, etc. I get it, but for the average person what does it matter? I mean, I doubt Google/Microsoft/etc. has a whole division set up to read the hundreds of millions (billions?) of emails that get sent each day, and even if they did would they really care about that great new cookie recipe someone just found, or the groupon deal they just received?

Don't get me wrong - obviously I don't want my privacy "thrown out the window," but isn't it pretty much paranoia that drives the whole "online privacy movement?" Honestly not trying to start a flame war or anything; I'm genuinely curious if there are any other reasons that I should be worried about ad companies tracking my online habits.


#2 Secular Humanist

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 02:07

artificial blanket of comfort for the scared and paranoid - typically control freaks

#3 Growled

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 02:46

People seem to forget there is no privacy in public.

#4 droolingmonkey

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 02:55

Its cos we're all dodgey, at some level or to some degree, whether it be travelling a little faster than the posted speed limit, lying about what time we will be home, slightly flirtier conversations with workmates than our partners might like...whatever it is, people want to keep their secrets secret (apart from those they tell!). Personally, I understand OP's perspective, I also struggle to find actual reasons, though I do think privacy is worth holding onto as long as we can. But lets face it, in a generation or two, there will be NO privacy.

#5 Joshie

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 03:24

It's similar to the question of "why is anonymity important". Nobody's really sure, and many people talk about the "possibility" or "inevitability" of tyrants in positions of power who could abuse personal information to persecute people.

So essentially, it's about ensuring the right to stay hidden from tyrants who may someday exist. Oddly this ignores the importance of, you know, fighting the tyrants. In other words, fighting for privacy and anonymity is paradoxically a very passive activity.

As long as freedoms are established and protected, these rights are unnecessary. If free speech is protected, anonymity becomes redundant. People argue that the Federalist Papers were published under pseudonyms, and that this is a justification for protecting anonymity. This argument blatantly ignores that the same people later fought to establish freedom of speech so that people could freely publish without persecution. This freedom was meant to guarantee that anonymity would no longer be necessary.

Privacy, on the other hand, is similar, but for where anonymity doesn't work. Where anonymity is about speech, privacy is about behavior. To do something that is illegal or socially unacceptable, privacy is required to avoid repercussions. Again, this is passive behavior. It does not mean the individual is also actively fighting for acceptance or decriminalization of the behavior, and in most cases, they are not. It goes without saying that a majority of gay people never marched or evangelized. A majority of marijuana users (and people in general) couldn't even name their own congressmen, let alone write a letter to one. Once someone finds a way to hide their behavior, why risk shining a light on it? Note that many of the most active voices in gay rights were heterosexuals, and in marijuana decriminalization, non-users.

Privacy is for the person who doesn't want to deal with society's negative reactions, while simultaneously holding society in contempt. These are the people who'll say they don't give a f**k what society thinks--right before saying their behavior is none of society's f**king business. It's confusing, and the pieces don't really fit together, but there you have it.

#6 Hum

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 22:30

I suppose privacy helps to avoids stress.

#7 astropheed

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 23:23

. . .


... :o
I just want to add one little bit to this brilliant response: Because we were told we want it and scared into thinking we're losing it so we grasp ever more tightly.


Personally I don't care that I have zero privacy, but I do care when certain people know certain things about me. There are some things Society would frown upon with all of us.

#8 srbeen

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 23:27

privacy and freedom are hand and hand. if you have no privacy, are you really free?

#9 astropheed

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 23:28

privacy and freedom are hand and hand. if you have no privacy, are you really free?


Yes.

Edit: I love when people propose questions like this and I just know in their head they feel like some deep character in a movie that asks this psychological question that stirs deep emotions in the reader for them to truly come to terms with the truth that was in front of them all along. When in reality you're just asking a question and a dumb one at that. You're honestly trying to say because first world nations have technology capable of tracking where you are that you lose the liberties afforded to you by living there to begin with? Take a trip to a third, hell even a "second" world nation and tell me that you'd rather their freedom. But hey, they don't track who your favorite American Idol is or what you ate on Wednesday so it's totally better.

#10 _dandy_

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 23:43

> I doubt Google/Microsoft/etc. has a whole division set up to read the hundreds of millions (billions?) of emails that get sent each day, and even if they did would they really care about that great new cookie recipe someone just found, or the groupon deal they just received?

If that's what you have to ask about, you're really not getting the big picture.

#11 Enron

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 00:08

To those of you who don't care about privacy, go ahead and post your full name, address, phone number, etc.. you know, public information.

#12 Joshie

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 00:09

privacy and freedom are hand and hand. if you have no privacy, are you really free?


This is boneheaded rhetoric. Your argument is meaningless without defining both "freedom" and "privacy".

My guess is you're making the same tired mistake of believing people need to be able to hide in order to be free. I challenge that and say that, in a world where people need privacy in order to do what they want, they are, in fact, NOT free. Freedom to do X inherently means that one is able to do X regardless of the reactions of others who are aware of your behavior.

#13 thatguyandrew1992

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 00:14

I want privacy because it's my information. No one else needs to know it. If someone wants to be private and have privacy rights, let them. If you don't like it, post everything about yourself if that makes you feel better. Please go to your Google History and post all of it. Provide us a zip file of all your emails as well.

#14 srbeen

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 00:16

This is boneheaded rhetoric. Your argument is meaningless without defining both "freedom" and "privacy".

My guess is you're making the same tired mistake of believing people need to be able to hide in order to be free. I challenge that and say that, in a world where people need privacy in order to do what they want, they are, in fact, NOT free. Freedom to do X inherently means that one is able to do X regardless of the reactions of others who are aware of your behavior.


..seriously? You'd be fine with Russia having exact coordinates on all the US forces then? a situation like North Korea?

as for online privacy, there is none and hasn't ever been any. Arguing over it is arguing over a dead horse. the internet wasn't designed with privacy in mind - rather the exact opposite.

#15 Joshie

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 00:16

To those of you who don't care about privacy, go ahead and post your full name, address, phone number, etc.. you know, public information.


This is a distraction and is not an actual argument. You believe you're making a point by calling out a person's hesitance to post that information here. This three-snaps-in-a-triangle pseudo-argument fails and you should already realize that. What's more, you've completely confused anonymity with privacy and don't even realize it.

Having a user account that is not tied to personal information is anonymity. Having personal information on file that others can't access without my consent is privacy. Now that you've learned some new words, try again.