Privacy is becoming an increasingly problematic concern for everyone. With the advent of drones, inexpensive cameras, etc., surveillance is becoming easier for governments and corporations. Inevitably, the temptation for governments and industry to acquire intelligence on all of us may become (or already is) irresistible. Most of us fear the “surveillance state” and feel that it represents an unjustifiable encroachment on our liberty.
The question is, what can be done about it? My theory is that the struggle to maintain privacy will only cause governments and corporations to be secretive about what they’re doing. Data is power. If we want to equalize ourselves with the collectors of data, we should accept our lack of privacy, and work on legislating the means by which the data is accessed, used, sold, and protected. Our data should be stored in distributed trusted servers, possibly in encrypted form, to defend against it being withheld or tampered with. Data on politicians should be public, since most of their misdeeds seem to come from efforts to cover things up. Anyone wanting to run for office should be required to air their dirty laundry at the start, and should accept that as the price of running for office.
Eventually, I think, we are going to be watched every moment of our lives from cradle to grave. As frightening as this is, many benefits might accrue from making this step. Crime will be reduced. Not simply because it will make it easier to catch criminals, but because most people will behave better if they know they are being watched.
In addition, we will be able to prove we are innocent. While “innocent until proven guilty” is supposed to be a basic right, it only applies to criminal proceedings. Simply being accused of rape is often enough to end a person’s career, or take their money through lawsuits. Indeed, the fact that this is possible gives the unscrupulous a tool by which they can defeat any honest person. A deeper embrace of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” could remedy this situation, but make it easier for rapists to escape justice. Only removing privacy solves both problems.
In addition, our health will be improved. Once medical data is more widely shared with researchers, the diagnosis, and treatment of numerous diseases should be improved.
Yes, we might be judged for mistakes we’ve made, but if we do our hypocrisy will be exposed. I think the end result will be that everyone is more tolerant of failures, and many of the things we suffer for trying to hide our failings will go away.
Is there really any serious downside to our coming loss of privacy?