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Social media as a slippery slope

With the huge technological developments over the recent years and the rise of social media, more and more people share information about their personal lives. Reason for many politicians,companies and even civilians to consider privacy as obsolete.

The debate has become a theorem. Privacy versus security, or privacy versus service. Either safety or service arguments prevail by the sentiments which are inserted and by the false argument “who has done nothing, has nothing to hide.” However, privacy is much broader. It is protecting the physical integrity, personal data, confidentiality of communications and safeguards the autonomy of the individual in social, intellectual and social context.

In the past 10 years, the call for greater security and enforcement greatly increased. Not in the least by right wing politicians, continuously claim that the country would be unsafe and therefore more enforcement is needed. So these politicians create an illusion of safety. The expectation surrounding [absolute] security will never be satisfied, so that the door to even more action is always open. In fact, the Netherlands has never been safer. However, the value of privacy violating ruling could not be substantiated. Government and scientific based research [WUID- Netherlands] showed that no correlation could be found between the increased safety regulations and civil safety itself.

But it is also difficult to resist emotional arguments that respond to safety. Such as the debate about child pornography or in the detection of international criminal gangs or even terrorists. The importance of privacy is then discarded because it is a hindrance in the view of those same politicians in the effective investigation of crime. Though the evidence for it is paper thin.

Curiously enough, the public apparently has a blind faith in the Government when it comes to confidential and accurate processing of it’s personal data, despite the many abuses over recent years which were revealed. So many politicians are encouraged that privacy is not really an issue among most citizens and collects information about you and share it with other agencies. So it can happen that you will be denied for a flight to the United States, without you ever knowing why.

You as citizen have no longer control of your own live even though you have not done anything illegal or wrong. Such case happened with a British journalist who was detained for hours without reason or explanation. The thing he did wrong that he had contact with Palestinian of which British Intelligence thought they were terrorist. However, the journalist was a reporter for the Middle-East. Such contacts are quite common, and the Palestinian contact appeared not to be terrorist, but just an ordinary citizen.

The trust that people put in the Government is not justified when it comes to privacy. The Government is the largest collector of all sorts of information about its citizens. Not only thus creates a very high risk when it comes to information management. Privacy serves as a buffer to protect citizens against the arbitrariness of the government. The latter has power resources [violence, persecution, imprisonment] that we have ceded to order society. Equitably as citizens. Not the law of the jungle applies, but the law of evidence. Therefore, the burden of proof also lies with the Government and not to the people. [Innocent until proven guilty] If civil society loses these buffers its freedom and openness wil slide into a tyrannical society.

The often-heard argument that who has done nothing, has nothing to hide, denies the potential vulnerability of a person’s social or economic position and includes the premise that someone is just hiding bad things. In addition, it is a reversal of the onus of proof. The Government must substantiate why you ought to reveal the information.

Not only applies these arguments towards the Government, but also to companies. Social Media company, such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and so on, can access our private information, analyse our data sharing and use this information for public targeted actions. Also, our data streams are used to influence our behaviour, our opinion and reactions. Facebook psychological tests of its users, is a clear case how we are being managed, without knowing.

Secondly, the fact that I share information with a friend, does not imply that Facebook can use that information. I intend to share with my friends. Facebook is not my friend, but a carrier of data. In the same way a telephone line is. Yes, we all agree to the terms and conditions, but can you actually choose differently? The only way out is not using social media, which isolates a citizen and depraves him from the current way of social interaction. A digital imprisonment. This fact is being used by Facebook. We are outraged that Government put taps on our regular telephone lines, but we blindly accept that Facebook does all the same with your digital information. Even when your share information on a full private level.

Another false argument, commonly used, is that for a free service one has to sacrifice it’s privacy. Which is in essence the same false argument as privacy for safety. We haven’t learned from B. Franklin. It also ignores the fact that paying customers, do not have more control over their data. Paying for social media, does not give your more privacy only more features. Which is gladly used by companies such as Facebook to gather even more information about you.

Privacy is not just about the confidentiality of data, but also the right that citizens have to decide what information and freedom they give up and how they are dealt with. Privacy as a civil right offers citizens to make their own decisions over their personal live, without a society that imposes compelling choices which can lead to social tyranny. The importance lies hidden in the fact that it offers people the chance to be different [opinion – expressions – orientation] without the fear for any negative consequences. Now most people consider a digital existence as a condition of participation in the social, cultural and economic society, privacy has become more relevant than ever.

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