• Adam Schneider


Personal Information Security is Essential to a Free Society

02 Apr 2020 At this point, if your personal data has not been stolen or neglectfully left unguarded on the Internet, then you are among a very rare breed of human. Or, you are simply ignorant of the fact that you are also a victim. "We take your privacy very seriously." You have heard those words before, probably many times. I am going to be blunt here: the persons using those words DO NOT take your privacy seriously. For the most part, you don't, so why should they? WHAT IS PRIVACY? A pervasive misunderstanding of this simple concept is hindering our ability as a society to deal with this topic. What is it, and why should we care? Governments and corporations around the world understand the value of protecting their proprietary information. To prove this point, consider the amount of money and other resources that these organizations devote to protecting that information from theft and exposure. When governments and corporations protect their sensitive information, we call that "security," or, more specifically, "information security." Yet, when the information belongs to individuals, we call its protection "privacy." By using a different word, we demean the value of every person's sensitive information. PRIVACY IS NOT A "RIGHT" Rights are merely widely agreed upon authorities, such as the authority to bear arms or the authority to get an abortion. No rights are universally agreed upon, as these two examples make clear.

There seems to be little agreement with the notion that individual information should be protected, since governments do not protect it, corporations do not protect it, and individuals do not protect it. Therefore, privacy is not a right.

Why should our personal information be protected? The reason is simple: to prevent others from using one's private information to gain power over them. In the extreme, such manipulation could take the form of blackmail. It is also being used widely to develop in-depth psychological profiles of every person that can be weaponized to affect your decisions about how you vote, how you spend your money, and how you spend your time.

Privacy is not a right, it is a security objective. Privacy is the quest for personal information security, which aims to limit an adversary's ability to use your personal information to their own ends. When individual power is lost, or significantly reduced, freedom is also lost. Individual information security is essential to a free society. INDIVIDUAL INFORMATION SECURITY The only way to ensure that a piece of data will not be stolen, lost, or misused, is to not collect it in the first place. Any organization, such as the government or a corporation, that collects your personal information does not take your privacy seriously, unless the collection of that information is unavoidable. The clock is running out to implement meaningful legal and technical regulations and enforcement mechanisms for our individual information security. While an email address, if leaked, can be changed, one's fingerprints, DNA, and other intimate personal details cannot. Some of this information is already being aggregated, lost, and misused. This particular genie cannot be put back in the bottle.