Online Privacy is a Moot Point

(republished from my post on linkedin)

Jan 28th is “Data Privacy Day”.

The purpose of Data Privacy Day (Data Protection Day in Europe) is to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection best practices. It is currently ‘celebrated’ in the United States, Canada, and 27 European countries.

For many years now, we have been debating on our online privacy rights, with arguments around “Right to Anonymity” and “Information Privacy” and “Personally Identifiable Information”. I believe all these are only a temporary phase in the way the internet is growing and how the world is coming to terms with it. Bottom-line is that only a few hundred thousands of people (at most) online really care about this issue and the larger billions of people don’t really have an opinion.

No, really. Discussions around expectations of online privacy is moot.

Today, my name, phone number, demographic data, personal address are present with at-least 50 different eCommerce players, 10 different travel service providers, a dozen online government agencies and not to mention the global social networks and the hundreds of installed apps on my mobile. And these are unknown corporate and government entities that I have WILLINGLY given access to my personal data. I haven’t seen the face of the owner of my personal data in any of these entities nor do I know that they are guarding my precious personal data with the same zeal as they protect their own. Plus there are other entities that I haven’t given my data to, but they have access to it thanks to ONE of my connections sharing it with them (Truecaller, for example).

Seriously now, where is this “privacy” that we are arguing about? On the one hand, we willingly give our private details to unknown parties and then complain about the trust issues related to them and how they are using our data. We voraciously consume articles on the private lives of celebrities, but are touchy about our own? On the internet, everyone is a Celebrity in some sense! Some system is always capturing what you do online. It could be your Operating system or your ISP or the website you are on or the people you are connecting to. A few, separate, non personally identifiable information, when added together can uniquely identify you online. There is no way any entity in this world can restrain this.

So what do we do about the current situation? The harsh truth is: Embrace it. Don’t care about it. Its hardly worth worrying about. Its a change in mindset that we have to go through. Its pointless to resist this, because its hardly a cause worth fighting for. Sure, there is a possibility that our online information can be used against us. Its highly likely that information and behavior shared online can be used as a judgement criteria for the person. But that is the smaller downsides of a future you cant stop.

Its unnecessary to fret about your online privacy, because probabilistically speaking you have a very minute chance of being adversely impacted due to the data collected about you. Frankly you should be more worried about some hacker who gets your data out of a government database or your Bank records.

If you want to know what the future looks like, take a look at how teens and kids are using the internet. The larger trend is that they care less about these issues and are actively contributing to the content of the internet – whether it is text or image or videos! and that really teaches you that once you don’t care about how you are being judged, you will express yourself more freely.


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