Originially published here: https://medium.com/@tarakiyee/online-privacy-is-a-corporate-invention-61a893436a8b
There is nothing private about the way we use the Internet. The act of posting something online without encryption is no different from shouting it on a crowded square. The concept of online privacy is purely a corporate invention, a way of normalizing the current practices, and is no way related to the concept of privacy, the act or ability of individuals or groups to express themselves and information about themselves selectively.
When we connect to the Internet, we connect to a vast network of devices that take our data and routes it as we wish, with no guarantees to privacy or secrecy. Social networking websites, and on a wider scale, all data-mining corporations, operate on a higher level of abstraction, providing us with the service of transporting our personal information and sharing it with others in the manner we wish, with a promise of secrecy as holders of this information. In fact, most of the services these corporations provide cannot function without this weird notion of virtual privacy, they need to be a third party that unnecessarily has access to said information.
The invention of online privacy, a pact of secrecy between the network and the user, facilitates these services, but as the corporation doesn’t only see the one user and their interactions, but the interactions of all of its users, it gains an interesting quality. This data becomes “mine-able” and suddenly gains great value. We trade the exclusive use of our data in this sense to these networks in exchange for the promise of secrecy.
This exclusivity satisfies one of the necessary conditions for this data to become a commodity for the corporation, a valuable raw material in a way. If it didn’t exist, then the value of this data is reduced to an ever decreasing function of storage plus bandwidth costs. This virtual “privacy” becomes a really important concept for the corporation to protect, as it becomes a business interest. The otherwise innocuous act of copying data becomes “stealing” because even though it’s “our data” only they have an exclusive right to use it.
When Facebook bought Whatsapp with 16 billion of its shares, we were angry, they bought 16 billion worth of our data with 16 billion more. Let’s stop defending online privacy and start advocating actual privacy practices on the Internet. The Internet is a public network and should always remain as such, if you want to transport information on that network privately, then you should use encryption, the network would provide you with secrecy only out of moral obligation, and anyone with in an interest in your data can only be stopped by encryption.
In conclusion, we can have privacy and use the internet, by using the proper kinds of encryption and not using data mining websites owned by corporations. We can develop and explore new paradigms in social networking, such as decentralization, that allow us to do what we do now but without having to sacrifice our privacy. Sure we might miss the targeted ads, and, well, the socially targeted ads… actually we probably won’t miss a thing.