Rose Eveleth |  “Dollars for Data,” Flash Forward (podcast)

As I sit here typing out this paragraph, there is a possibility that I’m being watched. You too, in whatever position you are in, could be watched as well. In fact, this tangled mess of privacy and surveillance capitalism is the topic of this week’s readings. In Rose Eveleth’s “Dollar for Data” podcast, she mentions data clouds and all the trails that we have cumulatively generated as a society. Every movement, every action, every store-bought purchase is carefully stockpiled and noted down to form these data clouds. What’s especially dangerous is that our clouds are not made in isolation and actually end up enmeshing, mingling and influencing those around us. This then, presents a terrible reality even greater than what we erroneously attributed as simply “our phones listening to us.” In fact, this misconception does not come close to our reality where everything we do is traceable, along with our intimate connections with other people. When we sign consent policies, it’s not freely giving away our own; but also encompasses our entire social circles. Where does that land us as a society then? How might we prevent such corrupt happenings around us? What systems can we posit that would wipe our data clouds clean? Systems such as Kagi that allow data privacy tweaking are in the right mindset, but how far can one platform or system reach? What tangible actions can we take, not only as designers, but also as regular human beings caught amidst a data trafficking web, to slow the spread of data piracy? Should we try a preventative approach against the inevitable or should we look towards new ways of protection to combat these issues?

Glenn Grenwald | Why Privacy Matters

Equally nefarious is content that Glenn Grenwald speaks to in his Ted Talk: Why Privacy matters. In it, he ascribes our society in prison-like terminology. For example, he discusses panopticons, a torture device created by Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century, which changed the way we view prisons. In it, an enormous tower stood in the center where people could always view any of the inmates at any given time, but the inmates could never peer inside the tower. Quite akin to the surveillance world that we experience today.

Perhaps the most startling statement comes in the form of “He who does not move does not notice his chains.” to describe how numb our society has become to the concerns of privacy. Many of us have adopted this idea that we should not be worried about any of our actions because we have nothing to hide, which presents us as members of society that can easily be manipulated and overtaken.

Furthermore, there has also been a resounding theme where speakers have presented the idea of democracy being slow and that it is a positive force against our fight against surveillance capitalism. What are the benefits of a slow democracy in terms of fighting against concerns of privacy? Alternatively, what would our society look like if democracy were instant, fast-paced? Would that hinder or help our fight against privacy inequality?


Glenn Greenwald: Why Privacy Matters

Rose Eveleth, “Dollars for Data,” Flash Forward (podcast)