I often find myself disregarding Edward Snowden leaks and think to myself, who cares? I have nothing to hide, really. Everything you say to Siri is recorded. Again, that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But should it?
Quick thought experiment using a grocery store. Imagine years from now when we walk into a grocery store and the store recognizes you and welcomes you on your augmented reality contact lens (go watch Black Mirror if you think that’s fiction). You have a grocery list written down on your digital notes and the store looks at it. Lights and arrows appear to guide you exactly where you need to go to find bread crumbs and toilet paper. The store collects data on me. 29 year old Caucasian male purchased bread crumbs and toilet paper, paused for a moment in the cookie aisle, was in the store for 2 minutes 33 seconds and paid using stored debit card information.
Of course, grocery stores probably already do this to a certain extent. And most of it is public information. Anyone can plainly see that I’m white and roughly around 30 years old. They don’t need to see what I purchased, it gets scanned at the register and stored in their computer. But data collection is huge and to a certain extent, important for businesses. It’s all about optimization. Grocery stores (to continue with my example) will use collected data more and more to optimize their stores based on demographic. They’ll learn that customers want certain products and don’t care about others. The stores will make more money and it will become a simpler process for us.
Companies do this already and have been doing it for many years. And as more companies use more advanced tactics, your data will become more and more valuable. I’d much rather watch a video ad on cameras or cars or something that interests me instead of Depends.
Of course, there are larger things to worry about. If all of your data is collected everywhere, it becomes much easier for the police to pin you when you’ve done something wrong. It could become like Minority Report without the need for precogs. All of your actions will be monitored and they’ll know when you’re up to something before you even commit the crime.
I do believe that privacy is important. I don’t want people to be watching me while I use the bathroom. I don’t want people to have access to my email account. So, yes, I do believe that privacy is important in certain instances.
Glenn Greenwald says that a lack of privacy in society promotes conformity, submissiveness, and dissuades creativity. He equates it almost to the point of terrorism in that all corrupt governments are run this way. When you’re watched (or may be watched), you act differently than if you were sure you weren’t.
I’m much more public than most people. My phone number and address are public. I run a business and you can find me on Google Maps. My Facebook is public to everyone. I advocate data collection. We have to get comfortable with companies analyzing us. What it all really comes down to is trust.