Privacy the history of a lost affair

Privacy, the catastrophe: Soon the roads will be filled with self-driving cars that we know use high-definition cameras for navigation. What if these cameras could be trained to detect license plates and detect traffic violations? We will have a super police officer in every corner.

Privacy: CCTV cameras continue to grow and we expect a modern 5G network for mobile and artificial intelligence. Images could come from anywhere.

The idea is to put as many eyes on the road as possible. This of course will change a lot of things, and first of all our behavior. Once the proper surveillance infrastructure is in place, anyone with a reason to hide should look for other solutions. 

But the above is not as far as you think, and of course this is not a science fiction scenario.

The information already collected is from often of high quality and can accurately track our every move.

Across the United States, police now use personal cameras, and videos are stored or streamed directly to a police station if needed.


Imagine 20 people in a cafeteria. Then there will be at least 21 cameras. What you say can be heard and broadcast live on twitter, or you may appear in the background of someone doing Skype at the next table.

But that does not stop us from going to cafes, we just accept the risk to our privacy when we are in a public place.

The resulting data "train" complex algorithms, which then push us to certain behaviors. "We're moving from the digital age to the predictive age," says Pam Dixon, director of the World Privacy Forum, think-tank.

Your smartphone aspires to know what you want to do before you do it.

How do we deal with this new world?

Twenty years ago, if a super market asked you to put a microphone in our homes or a company asked us to have GPS on all the time, or they asked us to have a camera with us all the time, we would probably say no.

Now we buy smartphones, rent Airbnbs and use every free WiFi. THE Google and many others know. They can listen to some recordings from their smart assistants, while Facebook collects what you can imagine.

All of the above create controversy but also confusion! In May, the city of San Francisco banned police from using face recognition software. An application was released this month (Faceapp) which collects data of its users and states it very clearly in the terms of use. The reactions after the release of this application show that we are not ready for what is to come.

On the other hand, they are the ones who try to introduce new ideas and get people used to new technologies. 

Google has already learned a lesson from Google Glass, a portable camera that launched in 2013 but does not seem to have been accepted by the general public.

Privacy - But to tell the truth: Traditionally you can expect privacy from a telephone booth or from a psychologist. What kind of privacy can you expect from a cell phone provider or a fitness band? What kind of privacy can you expect from an application that is built to processes photos in the cloud;

In 1998, when Google was still in the garage and Kodak still dominated the camera market, science fiction writer David Brin predicted the end of privacy as we knew it at the time. Brin said that cameras and sensors will become so cheap that they will inevitably be everywhere.

Your transactions will be recorded, your tax returns will be published. But that, according to Brin, would create a new form of privacy.

"Mutually secured surveillance" would ensure that people could not commit illegal acts. There would be no more illegal drivers and political corruption.

Brin mentions in his book The Transparent Society, that anonymity was a phase of human existence, which is no longer possible.

Brin believes that his vision becomes a reality: man will acquire divine powers, and will become omniscient of vision and observation. This will not be limited to the powerful.

Police violence began to be monitored by the camera. In the United States, there are family history sites where millions of people have taken DNA samples to find relatives. But the samples are used to identify suspects (the first successful arrest took place last month in Washington).

But there is another argument that surveillance is inevitable. In China, surveillance is widespread and algorithms rate citizens based on their behavior. Although the West is enacting new privacy laws, it will have less data - which is a key raw material for artificial intelligence - and thus find itself at a competitive disadvantage. Democracies need to collect data to protect themselves from cyber attacks, or so the excuse says.

The head of the New York Metropolitan Police recently said that China's use of face recognition is "absolutely correct."

However, for most of us, total transparency and surveillance doesn't sound like a very good idea. We fear data breaches, theft and photos of us online, but often we do nothing.

Privacy is an abstract concept. It is not mentioned anywhere explicitly and usually its meaning goes out of context: we want certain information to be limited to certain people.

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to share a secret with a stranger who will never be able to relate it to you? Privacy is also about power: the less others know about you, the harder it can be to get into your life. Transparency is not in any of the above cases.


Privacy: Big tech companies have different approaches to addressing our concerns.

First, they may impose some privacy: Apple, a pioneer, blocks internet surveillance (CEO Tim Cook said last year that "personal data stocks only serve to enrich the companies that collect them"). Facebook, a belated privacy, now predicts that the "main ways" users will communicate on the platform will be through encrypted messaging services, Messenger and WhatsApp.

Second, technology companies offer to give us control. Facebook promises that users' information "will only be seen by those who choose to see it".

The third way that technology companies offer us privacy is through the protection and anonymity of our data. Google may know that you asked for help with gonorrhea and that you went to the movies, but no one else will know.

However, we all know that Facebook and Google need to keep an eye on us, because that's how their advertising business works. But they ask for our consent without offering another option. If you do not agree to the terms of use you may not use the Services. This means that they do not lose any clicks on "accept".

But governments do not allow us to save money by buying a car without seat belts or making money by selling our instruments. Does privacy fall into the same category as security or medical ethics?

If a degree of privacy is one – an essential part of a person's existence and not a commodity – then we should not trade it.

How can privacy apply to surveillance in public places? We can not sign a form every time we leave the house.

And we reach the new Limits

To protect our privacy from annoying algorithms, we should close our homes, and not use digital devices and internet at all.

No one seriously thinks that technology companies will have less data about us in 10 years from today. We may be able to ban the police use of face recognition, but we can not stop the technology, which can now recognize gait, scan the iris and fingerprints.

Politicians want "comprehensive" privacy legislation. However, Privacy is so contextual that each service seems to need different standards.

Privacy: There is no one line we can follow, there are hundreds.

"You should always control what and with whom you share it," says Google. But after two decades of living on the internet, we have learned that the best way to design new boundaries is not as individuals, or as companies, using various electronic consent forms.

We need to design them as communities, with the power of numbers. Maybe in 20 years, technology companies will assume that they have every right to violate our privacy. We must first ask them to justify it.

Idea from Is privacy dead? The Best Technology Site in Greecefgns

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Written by giorgos

George still wonders what he's doing here ...

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