Opinion: Digital privacy is becoming extinct

Recent high-profile events are being used to bring back discussion about how our data is protected, and how much government bodies should have access to. Some cybersecurity experts even claim that evidence points towards some of the alleged attacks - such as the vandalism of the CENTCOM Twitter account - as being "inside jobs" designed to push surveillance legislation.

The law requires new cars to contain a black box which records all data about movements and faults

In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron has called for an "end" to secure communication apps which could facilitate or organise terrorist attacks in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France. In the US, the controversial CISPA bill is set to make a return which would force technology companies to hand over data on its users to the government. 

David Cameron, if his Conservative Party is elected for another term, wants software developers to introduce back-doors into their secure apps to allow government access. The problem is, if you create a hole in your application then it won't be long before criminals have access to everything your users send and receive on their devices. 

For the vast population, for right or wrong, access to our digital privacy is becoming more acceptable. We are being accustomed to companies such as Google and Facebook owning all of our data and communication in return for their services, so it only seems logical this access should extend to the government if it helps keep us safe. But again, is it this atmosphere of fear being used to create this acceptance? 

Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, who is pushing to bring back the CISPA bill, told The Hill paper: “The reason I’m putting this bill in now is I want to keep the momentum going on what’s happening out there in the world,” in reference to the alleged Sony Pictures hack by North Korea.

In the UK, access to websites has begun to be filtered and laws introduced which restrict what content the government deems suitable.

The internet stood united against CISPA last time around, and the controversial bill was dropped after backlash. This time however, it looks like the White House could support the bill. As part of the State of the Union address later this month, President Obama has said he'll discuss legislative proposals and cybersecurity measures to protect against cyber attacks and identity thefts. 

Citing the recent breach at Sony Pictures, Obama said in a speech at the FTC: "Internet insecurity creates enormous vulnerabilities for us as a nation, and for our economy and for individual families.”

Isn't it such a coincidence that #CENTCOM is "hacked by #ISIS" just as #CISPA is reintroduced? http://t.co/3xnmuq8gD6 #FalseFlag

— SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA16) January 13, 2015

We need to ask ourselves at what point do we draw the line with our privacy, whilst still allowing the government to function in this digital era? In the UK, access to websites has begun to be filtered and laws introduced which restrict what content the government deems suitable. How long before deep-packet inspection is performed in the same respect as China's notorious "Great Firewall" to block specific applications from citizens? 

Even our cars now monitor us under EU legislation which requires new cars to contain a "black box" that records all data about movements and vehicle faults. An "eCall" device will automatically contact emergency services and provide GPS location information to find your vehicle in the event of a crash. 

It's time to decide where you stand and take an active role in deciding what information you are willing to give up and for what purposes. After all, it's your digital privacy which is in danger of becoming extinct. 

Where do you stand on the digital privacy debate? Let us know in the comments. 


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13 Jan 2015, 11:24 p.m.

Anonymity can be abused by extremists, but privacy also empowers freedom-of-speech in a way that no government could ever hope to match. Education afforded by affordable ready access to an open intellectual debate is the best weapon vs. ignorance and hatred.

Repression and denying people their right to the freedom-of-expression is not a sustainable tactic for any organization. Informed people need to voluntarily choose to give up their freedoms to secure any lasting condition. Ideally, creative entrepreneurs bring solutions to market that maximize value.

Finally, it is a myth that people do not highly value privacy, or that it is "extinct". Clickbait article titles only undermine credibility. The myth is propagated by data and attention brokers that commercialize the buying power embodied in consumer’s data and attention. Look at Pew Research’s data and analyses of privacy and it is clear that there is a privacy problem/business opportunity. Once this problem has a strong enduser centric commercial or regulatory response it will reassert itself.