It’s Time to Throw Off Our Digital Chains

Discussions about digital privacy often evoke images of whistle-blowers, journalists, and intelligence agencies. But beyond this, it can sometimes feel as though the business model of corporate data mining presents few negative consequences in our daily lives. The omniscient machinery of state surveillance is rarely an issue visited upon us personally. Amazon, Google, and Facebook are overwhelmingly convenient, well-designed platforms that can be enjoyable to use. It is perfectly possible to worry about the surveillance state in the abstract but, at the same time, think of ourselves as having little to hide personally and, therefore, not much to worry about.

For these reasons, it is easy to tolerate technologies of surveillance in their various forms as a fact of life in the twenty-first century. Just like some people can experience the effects of climate change as pleasantly warmer weather, the insidious potential of mass surveillance often manifests itself as convenience and improved consumer experiences. The importance of systemic and collective privacy can start to fade from view — but at what cost?

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