5 Reasons Online Privacy Matters Even When You've Got Nothing To Hide

in #life7 years ago (edited)

It seems like every day the Internet is becoming less free- service provider monopolies, regulatory crackdowns on crypto currencies, government infiltration anonymous browsing networks, and most recently the defeat of net neutrality.

Typically, those who defend such egregious attacks on personal liberty resort to an 'argument' that goes something like:

But I'm not a terrorist, why should I care about online privacy if I have nothing to hide? Only criminals really need those rights!

For proponents of this line of argument, I should first express my relief that you are not part of the criminal underground. That makes two of us. But there are many practical reasons law abiding citizens- perhaps especially law abiding citizens, given we have the most to lose- should take an interest in protecting their online privacy.

Here are the top 5.

1. Corporate Data Mining

Data Mining

Remember all those terms of service you carefully read before signing? Me neither.

These days, even without your consent, private interests can easily and legally collect or purchase information about you and your online activities. Much of this is innocent, or even helpful, such as Amazon knowing which products to suggest or Facebook knowing which friends you recently met and may want to connect with.

Yet other times this tracking can pose an inconvenience, such as targeted spam ads and sponsored content. The real danger though is not just wasted time, it's that information gathered about you is already used in decisions which can meaningfully impact your life.

How much you pay for insurance, whether you're approved for a loan, or even whether you get the job offer are all decisions which can lawfully be made data on data gathered about you online.

We're not just talking annoying pop-up ads based on your recent Google searches, we're talking about something that can permanently alter the course of your life.

2. Malicious Attacks


Got Bitcoin, Ethereum, and/or Steem? You're a target.

Many services which help protect your anonymity online also aid in protecting you from certain kinds of attacks, such as man in the middle attacks. For those unfamiliar, a man in the middle attack is just what it sounds like- a 3rd party intercepts your computer communications, injecting themselves in the middle of your computer and the rest of the world.

Not only does this allow for monitoring your activity, it’s also an excellent foot in the door for injecting malware, viruses, or other protocols directly onto your computer.

As just one part of a robust defense, encrypting your online traffic helps by making it virtually impossible for an attacker to decipher any intercepted data, and much more difficult for them to inject false packets.

3. Limiting Your Audience

Facebook privacy

If everything you do is legal, does that mean everything you do should be public?

Imagine you want to message a friend the juicy deets of your latest Tinder hookup- should your government, employer, and creepy coworker also be privy to the same information?

It’s perfectly reasonable to feel comfortable sharing certain information with some people but not with others. We all do it. That’s not having something to hide, that’s being human.

Without online privacy and personal liberties, there is nothing preventing everything you do from being completely public.

4. Bandwidth Throttling

Speed test

Sucks waiting... ... ... ... ... ... ... doesn't it?

Many internet service providers (ISPs) reduce the speed at which content is delivered to their users in order to artificially reduce their networks’ capacity utilization. Their motivation is simple- less capacity utilization means less required infrastructure spending and more room for paying subscribers.

After the recent net neutrality ruling, this is only going to get worse. A lot worse. Data has already shown cases of ISPs further throttling bandwidth depending on the type of a user’s activity, such as video streaming or activities on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.

Establishing an encrypted connection to a proxy server, as is possible via your favorite VPN service, means your ISP cannot actually see the content you are sending and receiving.

With this level of privacy, while your ISP can still throttle your overall traffic, they can no longer as easily discriminate based on source or type.

5. You Just Don't Know - The Illusion of Control

Just because what you're doing online is not illegal today doesn't mean it won't be illegal tomorrow. You just don't know.

The moment you put your personal data online you relinquish all control over that information - including who uses it and what they use it for. There is absolutely no way to know ahead of time how that information might someday affect you.

If, after-the-fact, the government decides your favorite brand of alcohol infused energy drink is unsafe for consumers- we all miss you Four Loco- you don't want to face charges for the possession of a controlled substance because of that last six pack you have left in the fridge.

If, after-the-fact, a company's risk model predicts that fans of certain types of music or TV shows are less likely to repay their debts, you don't want to be rejected for a mortgage or student loan because of your browsing history.

If, after-the-fact, anyone connected to a protest movement is placed on a government watch list and you wrote a paper about the movement using research from its website, you don't want to be banned from flying home for the holidays.

What you're doing today might not be anything to hide, but that doesn't mean it can't be used against you in the future.

Maybe you don't think it could happen to you. Not in your city or state or province or country. Not for your race, religion, ethnicity, belief, hobby, interest, job, taste, preference or affiliation. Maybe you're right. Maybe not. You just don't know.

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Yeah, the internet was designed for the masses and it needs to be a free area.

I don't see how the internet is any different than international waters. Nobody should have control over it.