Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

The End of Privacy


Resistance is futile. You will be digitized—you and every thing you do and every place you go. Sound a little strong? A little 1984-ish? A little Borg-ish? Well, it’s not; it’s true; and you (and I and we) don’t have a clue.

The digitalization of our lives is eating away at our privacy, surely and not so slowly. Information about us and our actions is being collected in ways we can’t even imagine. And this information can be used against us—not only without our permission, but without any awareness of it taking place.

How did this happen? First, we trusted in the devices that sustain our civilization. Then, we (the individuals, organizations, and governments that make up this civilization) took the trust we gave to simple devices like typewriters and blindly transferred it to digital devices like computers.

We did so unaware of the fundamental difference between these new digital devices and older pre-electronic ones. Digital devices are easily diverted to purposes other than their original functions—and yet still seemingly perform as expected. E.g., while you surf for what you want, the browser invisibly records everything you click—what it wants. We are totally unaware, unlike a mugging or a home invasion. We not only don’t know when our personal information is being stolen, abused, or misused, we have no idea if it already has been.

We are equally unaware what’s at stake: more than our privacy is the loss of our freedom. For what is privacy but another form of freedom? To have a private life, private thoughts, and private actions is the very kernel of liberty, of freedom. Without privacy, all other freedoms vanish because there is no person there to possess them, to enjoy them, to exercise them. When this happens, we are truly nothing but a cog in the collective. To believe that privacy has no value is to become an insignificant part of a larger impersonal whole—and not to be whole within oneself.

Our digital fingerprints are everywhere. And our digital footprints. Our intakes and discharges. The very trajectory of our lives is lying around in bits, just waiting for someone to collect them—for good or evil. And that’s not the end of it. Someday soon, our brainwaves may be accessible in digital form. Unless that’s already happened. How would we know?

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