Privacy is dead. There is no such thing as privacy. We are all under constant, unending, crushing surveillance.
Depressed? You should be. This is the powerful conclusion reached by security guru Bruce Schneier in this brilliant op-ed for CNN. Schneier writes:
“The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we’re being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period.
Increasingly, what we do on the Internet is being combined with other data about us. Unmasking Broadwell’s identity involved correlating her Internet activity with her hotel stays. Everything we do now involves computers, and computers produce data as a natural by-product. Everything is now being saved and correlated, and many big-data companies make money by building up intimate profiles of our lives from a variety of sources.”
There are steps you can take to be a bit more private, but in the end all of those efforts are futile, we all leave a digital trail of one form or the other.
So what to do? Should we just give up and kiss our privacy goodbye? I have to admit that the above narrative sits well with my fatalist self, at times I feel like Marvin the Paranoid Android. No wonder I like every depressing song ever performed by The Smiths.
Perhaps it is this fatalism that leads me to a certain type of stubborn optimism. Yes, Google knows everything I do. Yes, my ISP knows where I am at all times. So use the system, be erratic, fill as many social media profiles as possible. Take control of your information destiny by creating noise. It might not help that much, but it makes me feel a bit less like leaving the house screaming at the top of my lungs “WE ARE DOOMED!”
By the way, deleting your browser history does not equate taking responsibility for your own privacy.