Thursday, June 13, 2019

Maciej Cegłowski, the New Wilderness:

So why have the gravediggers of online privacy suddenly grown so worried about the health of the patient?

Part of the answer is a defect in the language we use to talk about privacy. That language, especially as it is codified in law, is not adequate for the new reality of ubiquitous, mechanized surveillance.

In the eyes of regulators, privacy still means what it did in the eighteenth century—protecting specific categories of personal data, or communications between individuals, from unauthorized disclosure. Third parties that are given access to our personal data have a duty to protect it, and to the extent that they discharge this duty, they are respecting our privacy.

Seen in this light, the giant tech companies can make a credible claim to be the defenders of privacy, just like a dragon can truthfully boast that it is good at protecting its hoard of gold. Nobody spends more money securing user data, or does it more effectively, than Facebook and Google.

The question we need to ask is not whether our data is safe, but why there is suddenly so much of it that needs protecting. The problem with the dragon, after all, is not its stockpile stewardship, but its appetite.