thoughts and opinions on the business of building websites

The dangerous destruction of privacy. You may have nothing to hide but you have everything to lose

  • John Pitchers
  • Blog

On March 23, 2018, a dangerous, privacy destroying piece of legislation was deceitfully signed into law in the US that affects everybody globally. The CLOUD Act was quietly hidden in the 2,232 page omnibus spending bill. Senators had 24 hours to review the bill. Almost none did. There was no argument, no debate, no analysis. This dangerous legislation is now law.

The CLOUD Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data) gives the US warrantless access to any of your data stored in the US. Think Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple. All your iCloud storage, Gmail, Facebook communication and daily travel history for a start. It allows foreign nations to request and collect your data without notifying you or asking a judge or court for permission. It even allows wiretapping of US citizens without a warrant.

"What do I have to worry about. I've got nothing to hide."

The nothing to hide argument is a common response to the concerns raised by privacy minded individuals. We are made to believe that if you want privacy you must be a criminal.

The destruction of privacy only works in one direction for the benefit of a few and the detriment of the masses.

Our country's richest corporations, our bankers, media organisations, our governments and political parties have access to all our personal data. This select group of people know everything about us and our daily lives while we know nothing about them. Our privacy is destroyed while they live and work in secrecy.

Knowledge is power

They know your age demographic, where you live, what fast food you like and whether you are a coffee or tea drinker. They know where you take your holidays, where your kids go to school, how long you spend in your car each day and which political party you are most likely to vote for. They know what TV shows you watch, how much time you spend online, what websites interest you, the porn you watch.

Why does that matter? It matters because it gives large corporations and the elite class too much power.

They target you with ads, news and content specific to you. They use game theory, social psychology and behavioural science to make you desire stuff you don't need and to subtly change your political views and opinions about the world and society. They manipulate the way you think and you have no idea it's even happening.

This process increases the economic divide between the haves and the have-nots, the rich and the poor. Ultimately, reducing the quality of life for the mass majority by pushing the middle class further into a culture of consumerism and oppressive levels of debt.

In recent news, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has thrown Facebook's misuse of private data into the spotlight. More reports are emerging showing that this has probably been going on for years. Australia's political parties were approached by Facebook ahead of the 2016 election offering an "advanced matching" data mining service which enabled them to target Australian swing voters with tailored ads. The Liberal Party turned them down due to legal concerns.

Facebook helped Obama's Democrats - apparently unphased by legal concerns - win the 2012 US election. According to Obama's Director of Integration and Media Analytics "They (Facebook)... were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side." They were able to find voters that weren't directly in Facebook's datasets because Facebook had access to the contact lists of people that were. Thank about that for a moment. Even if you are not a Facebook user, your data is being harvested from your friends and family members.

Early Facebook investor, Sean Parker, in a recent interview said he regrets his decision to help build this half-trillion dollar company. He says Facebook was designed to be addictive and is "exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology". Facebook, Twitter and Google are monsters designed to turn users into profit.

As an individual, what if you decided to go into politics against a powerful opponent? Or, perhaps lead a movement against a political policy that opposed your values? Maybe, you want to become an advocate for cryptocurrencies, privacy, human rights or sovereign self-governance? With all the data collected about you, the websites you've visited, every forum post you've made, you and your family's location tracked via mobile phones, what information could your opponents find or evidence could they concoct to use against you?

Are you happy your data is used for political and monetary gain by the worlds elite? You may not have anything to hide but you have everything to lose.