We define privacy as “the quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others.” In the digital age, I define privacy as “being able to control what you expose to the public.” Think about this, I write without revealing my name, listing it as “Tinfoil Everything”. There is a logo instead of a picture of myself on here. I do, however, mention in the About section that I am a software engineer. I control what you get to know about me.
Currently, it seems as if the powers that be wish to remove our right to privacy. Some actions taken by our governments are done under the guise of security. They try to convince us they can’t catch the bad guys without spying on all of us. There are useful idiots in the media and on the streets that have bought into the idea that we should all be willing to give up our privacy to get more security, and they will do everything in their power to shame you and make you feel guilty if you think otherwise.
Let’s take a quick look at the actions being taken to destroy our privacy and the things high-profile people are saying about privacy. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves why we do the things we do.
“Security” and “Terrorism”
Back in 2013, Edward Snowden changed the world by leaking thousands of documents outlining a massive surveillance program being orchestrated by the United States intelligence agencies. The leak proved the US government had been spying on its citizens for several years using every method at their disposal, and it was all enabled by the Patriot Act of 2001. For many, this moment was the first time the realization occurred that our technology can be used against us, especially for surveillance. The major problem with all of this was it showed that our government believed itself above the constitution, and it hid behind “security” as the reason for the injustice, mentioning the word “terrorists” as much as possible to create fear and complacency. In 2006, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act was passed requiring telecom companies to hand over any and all records law enforcement agencies requested. The Protect America Act of 2007 redefined “electronic surveillance” so the government could survey communications outside of the US and further cemented their power to obtain information from telecom companies. In 2011, they filed several extensions to the original Patriot Act. The US government continues to use the word “terrorism” as a means to strip you of more privacy with each passing year.
Since then, there have also been reports of the US government asking companies like Apple and Google to stop using encryption and to create “backdoors” in their operating systems to allow for intelligence agencies to gain access more easily. The UK has laws in place that allow law enforcement to request wiretaps, emails, and for other records to be handed over, all for the sake of, you guessed it, “security”. They even say this is to prevent and detect “terrorism”. Australia has a massive surveillance program allowing their government to obtain phone records, location data, and internet activity logs of their citizens. Again, it is justified as necessary to protect everyone from criminal and “terrorist” activities. Seeing a pattern here?
With the evolution of technology, our increased dependency on our technological devices, and the continued fear-mongering by our own governments, we can only assume that the privacy violations we are subject to by our governments will increase in severity and quantity.
COVID is the New “Terrorism”
“Never allow a crisis to go to waste.” These words were uttered by American politician Rahm Emanuel and provide instant justification for being suspicious of our government’s actions. You could easily argue that this was the mindset in the post 9-11 government as they were quickly passing laws that stripped us of our privacy rights.
It has been a while since September 11, 2001. In America, at least, the memory of an act of terrorism is faded and distant now. Many other countries are in a somewhat similar situation. The powers that be needed another source of great fear they could use against their people. Queue COVID-19.
I will not make any outrageous claims about the COVID virus here, as that is not the point of this site. I will, however, claim with full confidence that the world’s governments are ABSOLUTELY using this virus as justification for another round of egregious human rights violations, over-reaching legislation, and drastic economic reform. Unfortunately, I think we are only seeing the beginning. Many state that privacy is already dead, but I disagree as there are still many areas of our lives where they can, and will, strip us of our privacy.
Rewind to mid-2020. Remember the idea of “contact-tracing” apps? We were told that it would help us know if and when we were exposed to someone that actively had COVID-19. I’m sure there are cases of this proving useful for a handful of people. Mostly, it was a way to convince people to willingly allow for companies and, by proxy, the government, to track our every move and see if we were complying with lockdown restrictions. Don’t take my word for it, though. Here are a few links to articles talking about different countries' governments' usage of contact tracing apps. When reading these, ask yourself why any government would have such an interest in these programs. Don’t fool yourself into believing that any of them do it because they care, either. It is naive to think that this data isn’t being used to judge whether people are following the Draconian lockdown laws.
Some governments have begun legislation surrounding the idea of vaccination passports. They’ve got us scared of the virus, so why not convince us it is in our best interest to have an app that states whether we have received the COVID vaccine. Other countries are taking similar actions using some sort of vaccination ID. On the surface, this may not seem like a terrible idea. Consider the fact that your vaccination records are part of your medical history and, until now, have been highly regulated to remain private. What’s next? Well, they could use these same apps to also list which medications and psychological disorders you have. Then that info could be used to prevent you from making certain purchases or attending certain events. This is all hypothetical, but the one thing you can’t argue with is how every government has repeatedly proven that, when given an inch, they will take more than just a mile!
Also, on a side note, ask yourself why knowing whether someone has received the COVID vaccination applies to whether they should be allowed at a concert, on a plane, etc. It was stated from the very beginning that none of the vaccines actually prevent someone from carrying and spreading the virus. If they do anything at all, it is to prevent the virus from negatively affecting our health. If being vaccinated doesn’t stop you from spreading then why should it matter to anyone whether you were vaccinated? You’re being conditioned and coerced, but that is a whole different can of worms!
Social Networks and Big Tech Companies are the Enablers
I’ve written about how big tech companies are collecting mountains of data on us all, and I won’t dive back into that here. I will, however, point out that it is through the apps and services these companies provide that our governments are gaining access to an ever-increasing amount of our data.
In the past, governments have leaned on telecom companies for phone and internet records. Before the Patriot Act of 2001, this required warrants and due process. Post-2001 in the USA, these records were made more quickly and easily obtainable by government and law enforcement entities.
Phone records can provide data about the people you call as well as the duration and frequency in which you call them. If things go a step further with a wiretap, then the nature of your conversations can be known as well. Internet traffic logs from our ISPs merely show what sites we visit and how often. All of this data has value but is still somewhat limited in scope. Also, in a lot of cases, this data can require a lot of paperwork and red tape to acquire.
Consider your social media accounts. People often post about what they are eating for lunch, the last movie they saw, a video game they recently discovered, etc. This data is incredibly useful for other companies to learn about how to advertise to certain audiences, what people in specific demographics like, and more. People also post about who they voted for, how they feel about the COVID vaccines, their general approval or disapproval of their government, and other more serious topics. Not only is this data incredibly useful to our governments, but they also don’t need warrants to collect it as social networks sell this data to anyone willing to pay for it!
If you have a smartphone running Android or iOS, your location data is for sale and governments are using it. Your music streaming service likely sells your data, especially if you use Spotify, and if you listen to politically charged podcasts or artists, your government might be interested in knowing this. It has been proven time and time again that many voice-activated “smart” devices are recording to you all the time and have humans listening to your conversations. All of the data collected from these violations of our basic human rights are for sale, and the problem is that we’ve all opted in to this dystopia by accepting predatory terms and conditions. Those in charge can and often do use this to profile us, and that’s a tremendous problem.
The Media is the Virus
The media have proven to be the greatest tool in ushering in the annihilation of our privacy. Sometimes they intentionally don’t report on stories regarding these moves to destroy our privacy. Other times, they report on privacy violations they know will gain or have already gained attention from the public, but they create a positive sentiment surrounding the situation. It is common for the media to try and shame us into agreeing with them. They also use language to paint those of us that question things as crazy conspiracy theorists to silence us or even persuade us to agree with them.
Outside of the traditional media outlets, social media is being weaponized for the same purpose. Influencers and brands commonly make posts regarding political or ideological views that are seen by millions of people. It is easy to find tweets from highly influential individuals that condone the recent invasions of privacy, cast shame on folks who don’t want to receive the COVID vaccine and demonize competing apps and services that exist to provide better privacy and free-speech. It is human nature to want to belong to a group or be accepted by the masses, and the influencers of social media know how to use this against us.
The social network companies themselves have, over the years, have transformed into media companies as well to control speech. Twitter began by posting little disclaimers on the tweets of certain individuals stating that the view expressed was contested and likely false. This gave Twitter more control over the rhetoric, intimated others from posting similar content, and boosted content that fell within the agendas being propped up by the company. Essentially, it paints those that voice their opposition to privacy violations as crazy dissenters and creates a place for those obsessed with virtue signaling to let the world know that they comply. Recently there have been several YouTubers reporting that they’ve had videos removed or demonetized for talking about censorship and/or privacy. In extreme cases, some folks have even been banned from the platform.
The media have and always will be the primary tool used to influence sentiment. It has become increasingly common for this power to be used in making us content with the continual invasion and destruction of our privacy and free-speech. It is no wonder that trust in the media is at an all-time low.
We Have Some Control and We Should Hold on to It as Long as Possible
We have more control than we are led to believe. By using a more secure browser, we can slow the collection of data. If we choose to stay off of the main social networks and only use networks such as Minds, Gab, Ruqqus, etc, we can take part in online discussions without tying our identities to them. Using Tor, or at the very least a VPN service, we can anonymize our traffic preventing further invasions of our privacy. We need more encryption and more decentralization in our lives to protect our privacy!
A lot of what I mention here is part of my motivation for creating this site. I believe we all have a right to privacy and I fear what can be done with the data that is collected about us. If you are reading this, then you are at least interested in or concerned about your privacy, and I commend you for that! I won’t promise that the advice I provide on this site will be without flaw, but I can say that I’ll continue to do my best to help you stay informed on how your privacy is at risk and what you can do to take some of it back. Keep checking back for posts outlining ways we can all be a little more private online!