Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Privacy for the Sake of Privacy

The passage in the book that I found most interesting comes from Chapter 4. Marcus discusses what it feels like to be locked up with all his privacy revoked. I often wondered why it matters so much that we keep our lives private. If we are doing nothing wrong, why try to keep a secret. For example, I have a friend who refuses to use Google because of their tendency to keep information regarding users.

In this passage, Doctorow relates privacy to something we all can understand: using the bathroom. He proclaims that there is nothing inherently wrong with using the bathroom, but we would never volunteer to do so while others were watching. In regards to personal data and using the bathroom, he feels: "It's not about doing something shameful. It's about doing something  private. It's about your life belonging to you."

 I realized that having nothing to hide is not the same thing as putting your life on blast. I could also better understand Marcus's plight in his fight for privacy after reading the comparison. As an adamant technology adopter, I know how intruding services can be, but there is also a trade-off. In the case of Google, allowing its servers to hold your data means better search results. I think the main question we must ask ourselves is: Is the trade-off worth the breach in privacy?

Image: Glass House by James Vaughan

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1 Comment

  1. tiburcma

    Just like you, I never understood why privacy was such an important principle to uphold, especially in consideration that most people have nothing to hide. The mere notion that someone demanded privacy was, to me at least, an indication of suspicious activity. Now though, I can appreciate what you and Marcus mean by appreciating privacy for its very own sake. However, you bring up a great point in that we can experience convenience by relinquishing just some of our privacy, as is the case with Google and similar search engines. But then again, is the “trade-off,” as you say, worth it? I think that it is... in some cases. If a service taps into our world of privacy with our knowledge and with no sign of malicious intent, I see no harm in “surveillance,” or record keeping. This especially holds true if no human is meant to see the information collected, and if it is simply stored in some underground server for the sake of future systematic use. If, however, the surveillance operates through deceitful or undisclosed means, then I find it to be an unwarranted breach of privacy which violates our personal liberties. Clearly, there are many differing views on the matter, and no distinct line between a justified and unreasonable breach of privacy. The matter, it seems, is entirely relative.

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