“Privacy is Power: Reclaiming Democracy in the Digital Age by Carissa Véliz
They are watching us. They know I’m writing these words. They know you are reading them. Governments and hundreds of corporations are spying on you and me, and everyone we know. Every minute of every day. They track and record all they can: our location, our communications, our internet searches, our biometric information, our social relations, our purchases, and much more. They want to know who w are, what we think, where we hurt.
This is the privacy manifesto I’ve been waiting for. This is the book that you can get our mom and dad to read, and they will understand why privacy is important. I want to buy copies of this book for everyone in my family. I want to send this book to members of parliament, and prime ministers around the world.
Too much is at staked to let privacy wither - our very way of life is at risk. Surveillance threatens freedom, equality, democracy, autonomy, creativity, and intimacy. We have been lied to time and again, and our data is being stolen to be used against us. No more. Having too little privacy is at odds with having well-functioning societies. Surveillance capitalism needs to go. It will take some time and effort, but we can and will reclaim privacy.
Surveillance capitalism is a word coined by Shoshana Zuboff in her excellent book ““The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power””. While her book is an incredible history, and breakdown of how our privacy is being stolen by big tech, it is also incredibly long, and hard to read; it isn’t a book that grandma would probably understand and it doesn’t drive home why privacy is important to each and every one of us.
To those who say say that privacy is dead, ask them for their password to their email account. Or, better yet, next time they’re in a toilet cubicle, greet them from the adjoining cubicle as you take a peek over the divider. You won’t be disappointed - privacy norms are in good health.
She makes a valid point in her book that we are the one who are giving away our privacy. We wouldn’t be ok with people watching us pee, but we gladly let apps monitor what we do on our phones. She shows us that because this invasion of privacy is being done ‘transparently’ and without many of us knowing, is why we continue to let it happen. I hope by reading this book more people become aware of the true state of technology right now.
By now most people are aware that their data is worth money. But your data is only valuable because it can be sold. Facebook does not technically sell your data, for instance. Nor does Google, they sell the power to influence you. They keep your data so that they can sell the power to show you ads, and the power to predict your behavior. Google and Facebook are only technically in the business of data: they are mostly in the business of power. Even more than monetary gain, personal data bestows power on those who collect and analyse it, and that is what makes it so coveted.
She puts complex concepts into ways that the average person with little technical knowledge can understand.
Tech has a track record of caring little or nothing about our autonomy. Many tech companies don’t seem very interested in what we want. They don’t make products to help us live the life we want to live, or become the people we want to be. They make products that will help them achieve their goals, products that squeeze as much data as possible from us for their benefit.
This book explains so perfectly why I’m self-hosting services at home, even this blog. I want to use tech, I don’t want it using me.
Any social system depends on the cooperation of the people. When people stop cooperating, the system breaks apart. Often the necessity of cooperation isn’t obvious until it stops, and with it the whole machinery grinds to a halt. To trade in personal data relies on our corporation. If we stop cooperating with surveillance capitalism, we can change it. If we look for privacy-friendly alternatives, they will thrive.
We can stop this. We all need to become more educated on what is happening, and then refuse to cooperate.
A good life demands a reasonable degree of struggle - the right balance between the ease of convenience and the benefits of meaningful effort. Like pleasure, convenience has to be weighed against the price we have to pay for it, and the consequences that are likely to ensue.
In the last part of the book, she gives important tips that people can help fight back against the data collection happening to them. She recommends ways people can stop giving up their data, secure their email, and be more aware of the data trail we are leaving in the world.
Not all tech is bad. A world in which we can enjoy privacy doesn’t need to be one deprived of technology. We just need the right teach with the right rules in place. Good tech does not force-feed you. It is there to enhance your autonomy, to help you achieve your own goals, as opposed to tech’s goals. Good tech tells it to you straight - no fine print, no under-the-table snatching of your data, no excuses, and no apologies. Good tech works for you. You are its client. Not advertisers, not data brokers, not governments. You’re not only a user, and never a subject, but a citizen who is also a customer. Good tech respects our rights and our liberal democracies, Good tech protects your privacy.
How’s that for a conclusion? The fight isn’t lost yet, but we do need to start fighting. Please share this book with your family and friends. Let’s take back tech.
Book #12 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #BookReview #NonFiction #CarissaVéliz #privacy #tech #GAFAM”,