Carissa Véliz is a postdoctoral researcher at the Uehiro Center for Practical Ethics and the Wellcome Center for Ethics and Humanities, at the University of Oxford. In addition, you are editing the Oxford Digital Ethics Manual, which will be published soon. And it has something to tell you about the carefree way you protect your private life: "You have endless things to hide and endless things to fear, and the fact that you don't go around publishing your passwords or distributing copies of the keys of your house is proof of that. "
Google and Facebook are not in the data business: they are in the power business
Doesn't convince you? There's still more. "Privacy matters because the lack of it gives others power over you," the researcher writes in a test published in Aeon. From his point of view, the value of this increasingly visible sphere of our lives is overwhelming evidence, even if you consider yourself a nobody. "If you weren't important, businesses and governments wouldn't be trying so hard to spy on you," he reasons. Don't you think you have nothing to fear? You seem to be wrong, "unless you are an exhibitionist with masochistic desires to suffer identity theft, unemployment, public humiliation and totalitarianism."
The problem is not in the monetary value of the data. "Technically, Facebook doesn't sell your data. And neither does Google," says Véliz. What they sell is their power over you, their ability to show you ads and their ability to predict your behavior. "Google and Facebook are not in the data business. They are in the power business."
Power molds us, it can awaken in us needs that go against our interests. "And the more invisible those means of power are, the more powerful they will be," the researcher adds. An example of this, he explains, is that technology companies make use of studies on the effects of dopamine to make us addicted to app. It is not economic or political power, but it can be transformed into both, it is the result of knowing what keeps us awake at dawn, what we want and what we are thinking of doing. "Power over the privacy of others is the quintessence of power in the digital age," he says.
Technology companies are nothing without our data
So, what can we do now? The researcher quotes the French philosopher Michel Foucault, who claimed that, although power builds us, we have the possibility to resist him and build ourselves. "Technology companies are nothing without our data. A bit of regulation, some citizen resistance, some businesses starting to offer privacy as a competitive advantage, and everything can evaporate," he says. "If they were so sure of the value of their products for the good of users and society, they would not have to work so hard to do lobby".
Against these threats, Véliz prescribes resistance. He knows that it is not realistic to expect us to abandon the use of technologies that permeate our routine overnight. "Respect the privacy of another. Do not expose normal citizens online. Do not record or photograph anyone without their consent and, of course, do not share those images online," he advises.
Privacy is important because it empowers the people
In cases where an entity asks us for data that it would not have to need, the researcher proposes a bit of mischief. "Imagine someone asks for your phone in a bar and doesn't accept a no for an answer. What would you do? Maybe you would be tempted to give him a fake number," he explains. Giving false names is only one of the tools: we can also use privacy extensions in internet browsers, disconnect the networks from our devices when we do not need them, do not do those DNA analyzes that ensure we show our lineage …
"Privacy is not just your thing. It is personal and collective. When you expose your privacy, you endanger us all. The power of privacy is necessary for democracy," says Véliz. As long as we keep it, we can vote according to our beliefs and without external pressures, we can start protests anonymously and without fearing repercussions, read what our curiosity dictates … "Privacy is important because it empowers the people. Protect it."
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