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Big data is watching you – Why the war on privacy may be the most important conflict of our time

NPR examines the end of privacy in its TEDTalk roundup. There is a war going on for your privacy and it may be the most imminent threat to freedom and democracy that humanity has ever known.  So you might think what do I have to hide? If you are not doing anything wrong, why do you care who is tracking your data? Well, it ends up that George Orwell may have been profoundly optimistic and naive about the scope of surveillance under “Big Brother” now known as “Big Data.”  Imagine that with today’s data surveillance all homosexuals could have been easily tracked and jailed for sodomy.  Do you think that homosexuality would have seen the legal milestones of the past five years if all homosexuals were imprisoned and had their voting rights stripped as felons? The implications of data privacy may not seem like a big deal now but what about in five years.

Even more striking would be the current revolution in the legalization of marijuana. This is an important issue that everyone needs to think about. Maybe Edward Snowden is a hero and not a criminal? ICE wants to scan license plates of all cars using traffic cameras. Police can stop you because someone with a warrant once used your car and got a traffic ticket. Arrested for a DUI in the past? Computer flags your license plate for traffic stops to see if you have been drinking.  The list goes on. So where do you draw the line between freedom and security?  In the oft misquoted words of Benjamin Franklin, “They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

-Author: George Creal

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