By Zero Knowledge Privacy Foundation and SpiderOak –
Privacy and secrecy are not the same thing. Privacy is about individual freedom to choose what things we are willing to share, and whom we share them with.
There are a number of other reasons why those with “nothing to hide” should still care about privacy.
For example, seemingly innocuous bits of information can sometimes be compiled and analyzed in such a way as to constitute a violation of your privacy.
In 2012, the New York Times reported on how statisticians at Target are able to determine with almost 90 percent accuracy that one of their female customers is newly pregnant by analyzing purchases outside the store’s baby department (on items like unscented lotion, vitamin supplements, cotton balls, and large purses).
The store can then predict the customer’s due date and send timely promotions her way. This led to a Minnesota man discovering his teenage daughter’s pregnancy when Target began sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs.
Another concern has to do with “secondary use”: the possibility that we might not know who is collecting information about us and how they are profiting from it.
And if you think you have nothing to hide right now, the fact that online data can be stored indefinitely means that your information could eventually be used in unwelcome or unexpected ways.
“Increasingly, it’s becoming harder to control and own our data because privacy policies, as everyone knows, are constantly changing. Your consent today may not be your consent tomorrow.” Khalia Barners, Director of Student Privacy at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
Why does privacy mean in the digital age?
With the emergence of cloud technology, a huge amount of our personal and business information has migrated from hard drives we own to remote servers managed by various companies.
According to the technology research firm Gartner, indi-viduals will store more than one-third of all their data in the cloud by 2016, up from seven percent in 2011.
The ease and convenience of using digital services — not to mention the intangible nature of it all — has led many of us to think less and less about privacy.
Yet it’s worth remembering that many privacy protections we enjoy in the offline world don’t extend to the digital sphere
The absence of strong online consumer protection laws means that information communicated and stored online is not granted the same degree of privacy protections found in many other industries.As a result, Internet companies have been left almost completely free to monitor their users’ personal behavior and sell this information to advertisers.
In fact, many of the companies offering cloud storage, such as Google and Amazon, make secondary use of the data that you upload to their servers–even if you designate the information as private.
The question of how transparent these companies are about the ways they plan to use your information is at the heart of debates over online privacy.
Protecting our privacy means protecting our ability to make informed decisions about how our digital information and online activities are shared.
So if you store information in the cloud and care about your privacy, here’s what you should ask yourself before going online
- Does the company that owns the service I’m using have the ability to access and analyze my data?
- If so, do they have the right to use it for the purposes of advertising or profiling?
- And if that’s the case, am I okay with this tradeoff?