I am often asked why I care about data privacy. I am not an international master spy (honest!) nor a celebrity or a politician. I am just an ordinary bloke. Why does it matter?
However, I think most people are actually concerned about privacy in their day-to-day lives in at least one of three main ways:
Personal privacy. Most of us have experienced a nosy neighbour, or a bully at school or work, or even an over-concerned family member. We don’t want to have to explain our browsing history, or where we went during our lunch hour, or why we texted someone. It might be because the subject is personal to us or someone else or just because it is none of their business.
Commercial privacy. If I am about to enter a negotiation to buy a car I don’t tell the other person what my budget is. If I am looking to buy insurance I don’t tell them what my other quotes are until I have heard their offer. I don’t walk in to Starbucks and tell the barrista how much I could afford to spend on coffee today before he shows me the price. Fair price negotiation is almost impossible if one side knows much more about the other. If I am looking for a car I don’t want the car dealer to find out from an agency how much money I am likely to have in my bank account. I don’t want to be bombarded with ads for beachwear because I went to the beach last weekend. In practice, commercial privacy is probably the most significant issue for me, and is exactly the point that Google, Facebook, credit card companies and others are hoping to exploit.
Freedom. In a free society, as long as I am not doing something illegal, I must be left alone to do it. And it is a core human right that it is not up to me to prove I am not doing anything illegal, it is up to an accuser to prove I am. Almost all the population are law abiding and it is clearly disproportionate to spy on them all just to try to catch the very few who are criminals. Sometimes people say “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” but that is not true. I may have nothing to hide, but there are many people I rely on or support who do have something to hide, but are still acting perfectly legally. Investigative journalists teasing out corruption, politicians fixing wrongs that have been done to their constituents, activists campaigning for a change in the law, demonstrators expressing their disgust at the actions of the powerful, trades unionists campaigning for better working conditions. All these are frequently targetted (often illegally) by people abusing their positions and rely on strong privacy in order to make any progress on behalf of the rest of us.
So, although I am an ordinary bloke, I care about strong data privacy both for myself and in order to make sure it is available to those who’s lives depend on it. And so that using and caring about privacy is not, of itself, seen as an indication that someone has something to hide.
Are your reasons the same as mine?