In the midst of increasing privacy hysteria following Wikileaks’ “Vault 7” leaks, removals of consumer protection by the FCC, and other troubling developments in information technology, it’s easy to get demoralized. Seemingly every organized force in technology is working against the interests of the private individual, and each one’s efforts gets lost in the deluge.
All of them work to erode individual privacy, however some do more than others. Here’s a list of the ones to watch out of the many choices, in order of harm potential:
Most of the recent fingers pointed at Zuckerberg’s monster in recent times have been accusatory on the front of free speech and content curation, not privacy concerns. With the rising phenomenon of tabloids as “fake news” and concerns of algorithmic bias in showing users’ content, that finger-pointing is not entirely unwarranted. However, Facebook has and will likely continue to have one of the worst privacy track records in Silicon Valley, and with the publishing of Zuckerberg’s Dystopian Manifesto, I’d keep my eyes peeled for more developments from their house.
4. Law Enforcement
The term “privacy breach” immediately draws up images of balaclava-laden Ukrainian men, hunched over their laptops. People immediately go to hackers when they think of information theft. However, there’s just as much risk of losing your privacy to the people who supposedly protect you as there is from faceless information brokers thousands of miles away. Law enforcement in the developed world, in addition to becoming increasingly militarized, has begun the widespread information collection and sharing with federal and national authorities. Whether it’s consent-free biometric databases, metadata gathering or exploit hoarding on an unprecedented scope, law enforcement everywhere seems to be growing allergic to police work in favor of widespread snooping.
3. the FCC
The FCC has had a love-hate relationship with the protection of individual rights since its inception. From hobbyist broadcast restrictions to net neutrality, it enforces a mixed bag of IT-related regulations. Under the current administration, however, it may become the vehicle for one of the biggest institutional dismantlings of citizens’ rights in the 21st century.
2. The ESA
This one might not seem to make sense at first, but the Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) lobbying against the “right to repair” will have direct consequences for information privacy. If precedent is set for protection of circuit diagrams and basic internal functionality as trade secrets, responsible disclosure for hardware solutions will become a living nightmare. Letting it slip that there’s a flaw with, say, a router that handles traffic in VPNs could land you in jail. This means the only people who have incentive to find these issues are those looking to exploit them directly. An integral part of privacy in the modern world is security disclosure, and striking down of the right to repair chokes the life out of the movements and people encouraging it. The ESA, directly related to online privacy or not, is one of the biggest threats to those who want to operate without eavesdroppers in the modern world.
Yes, you. In the end, you are responsible for your own privacy, and blaming multinationals and platforms before taking a long, hard look at how you conduct yourself online is patently hypocritical. You click “yes” on all those draconian terms of service and EULAs. You send sensitive information in plaintext and click less than legitimate email attachments. Ignorance is not now, and will never be an excuse for bad privacy practices online. If you’re shouting your personal details in a crowded public place, you can’t get mad when a stalker hears your address and comes a’courtin’ – that responsibility lies with you first.
That said, plenty of people do due diligence, and giving large corporations and corrupt governments free rein is, at a certain point, victim-blaming. Adults should take responsibility, but so should the people trying to undermine aforementioned adults if they’re doing what they can within reason.
Do you agree? What other threats to privacy threats are out there? Let us know.
Images via Pixabay