We've talked about why privacy matters in the internet age, but it's an ongoing battle. Glenn Greenwald — one of the first reporters to write about Edward Snowden's release of classified files — explains in this TED Talk why privacy is important, regardless of whether you do anything wrong or not.
Greenwald opens up with a perfect example of why privacy matters to everyone: There's nothing wrong with singing and dancing, yet you do it in private because you don't want to do it in front of others. You may have nothing incriminating to hide, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be allowed to hide when you want to sing and dance. The big problem, Greenwald explains, is that there is not only two types of people in the world. The world is not split into "good people" and "bad people". We are all just people, and we all do things that we don't want to be seen. Greenwald goes after those that suggest that if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide:
"...the people that say that, that privacy isn't really important, they don't actually believe it. And the way that you know that they don't actually believe it, is that while they say with their words "privacy doesn't matter," with their actions they take all kinds of steps to safeguard their privacy. They put passwords on their email and their social media accounts, they put locks on their bedroom and bathroom doors. All steps designed to prevent other people from entering what they consider their private realm and knowing what it is that they don't want other people to know."
Greenwald believes that all of us have things to hide. We know what we want to keep to our self and what we want to share. But there's more to it than keeping our embarrassing secrets from others. Greenwald suggests that knowing you're being watched changes everything you do:
"The reason is that when were in a state where we can be monitored or can be watched, our behaviour changes dramatically. ...Mass surveillance creates a prison in the mind that is a much more subtle, though much more effective, means of fostering compliance with social norms or with social orthodoxy, and is much more effective than brute force could ever be."
Greenwald sees mass surveillance as something that takes away our inerrant freedoms and breeds conformity. When we believe there's always a guard watching us, we'll never step out of line. Every time you say that you don't have anything to hide, you're merely sidestepping the real issues. It's not about whether you're a "good person" or a "bad person" with secrets to hide. It's about what privacy means as a whole, for everyone. So what can you do? For starters, re-think how you should fight for privacy and educate yourself about what's going on and why it matters. Be aware of changes, support companies that value your privacy, protect your own privacy whenever you can, and find a way to make your voice heard. Check out the full talk above — if you still aren't sure about why we fight for privacy, it's an eye opener.
Glenn Greenwald: Why privacy matters [YouTube]