- Privacy is not yet dead. But the choices we make today about the role of privacy in our networked era will have consequences for decades to come.
- We should avoid speaking of privacy in terms of trade-offs, in which the more privacy we give up, the more benefits (in terms of security, for example) we get in return. Those benefits are often exaggerated.
- Rather than imposing a single ethic of privacy on every person, we should allow people to choose among varying levels of privacy.
- Monetizing personal information would put people in control of their own data, enabling them to choose their own level of privacy. Meanwhile data would become too expensive for businesses and governments to hoard and mine indiscriminately.
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I. Imperfect Information
Focusing on facts is generally an effective first step to gaining clarity about a complex or elusive topic. In the case of privacy, the facts are denied to us. Those who have reduced our privacy, whether they are state or commercial actors, prefer that we do not reduce theirs. The National Security Agency (nsa), for example, long hid the full extent of its vast electronic surveillance operations. Even after the recent leaks by former nsa contractor Edward J. Snowden, we can know only approximately what is going on.
This article was originally published with the title How Should We Think about Privacy?.