Why is our privacy so important? If we know we’re not violating any law, and living life without embarrassment, why do we care about who knows everything about us? The police would be bored to tears listening in on my conversations. Facebook and Google knows everything about me — so what? I get to keep in touch with friends or acquaintances for “free.”
The dark side of technology is clear to most people: identity theft, bank account thefts, political bots propagating reinforcing political messages, and cyber-attacks from individuals or states. This is why so many people reject news that counters their predispositions — “fake news.” How can the mere individual “know” the “truth”? How can an individual counter the onslaught of money invested in technology intended to manipulate that very same individual? A cyber-attack to influence a U.S. elections, the hack of Sony, the taking control of our infrastructure, theft of intellectual property — why are these cyber-attacks less egregious than the bombing of Pearl Harbor? Make no mistake, we are in the new age of information warfare.
Lawmakers have been woefully ignorant of our brave new world — playing the game of whack-a-mole by addressing issues as they present themselves — calling for congressional hearings every time the public is outraged. Technology is advancing far faster than the collective minds of our venerable lawmakers. “Data” is not a war we can win in a democracy if our democracy turns an ignorant eye away from the ever-increasing invasion into our lives.
The government must immediately seat a commission of equal part policy wonks, and equal part hackers (the good kind employed to find holes on the internet). The mission would be to develop “A Digital Bill of Rights” that protects our basic core values of privacy and freedom of speech, while creating internet protocols and norms that permit the government to more easily uncover technological abuses. How that will look is anyone’s guess. At least we can make an attempt to get ahead of the curve.
I invite the reader to check out organisations devoted to this topic (i.e., Computer, Freedom, and Privacy). It is time we work together to have a happy and safe technological future.