Merry Christmas all. Earlier this winter break I was talking with my pal about why I give a damn about privacy, why I believe it is crucial to Being. It boils down to this: the alternative to privacy is orthodoxy.

The primary ways in which we interact with the world are increasingly dependent on the web — from contacting and maintaining connections with friends, to consuming news and entertainment (more generally, sharing and accessing information).

I hold that we can be thought of as the sum of our actions. This is to say, our digital presence/interactions reflect us; one's online behavior is inextricably linked to one's self.

However, not when you are spied on—but simply when you believe you could be under observation—you behave differently (and importantly this often occurs at a subconsciously level). So when you're using an online service that's routinely not respected its users' privacy, your actions are no longer a product of autonomy; rather, are shaped by the expectations imposed upon you — orthodoxy.

Under this environment, the world appears more dim. One becomes less receptive, less imaginative, to the vast possibilities of the world and what it could be; less willing to question as a critic, subjugating oneself to what is; less able to change the mind of yourself and of those around you.

This is why every tyrant has desired/imposed surveillance — it squishes dissent (free, possibly opposing thought) before it can form. When you won't do things (when you self-censor) you become myopic, submitting to that which is set before you. What limits does society steer you towards or away from?1 This answer is only revealed with hindsight.

This is also why I believe privacy fear mongering—the absolute pessimism perspective—that no matter what you do, 'they' can comprise anyone2—is wholly unproductive. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you are sure you are powerless, then you become powerless.3 Any fool can construct a scenario where nothing matters.

1 I'll point to gay marriage as stance outside of the realm of public acceptability that is now widely supported (in the states).
2 Privacy pessimist FUD asserts that all hope is lost, say the feds have a backdoor to the CPU (see, Intel Management Engine) or have already cracked modern encryption standards. I am all for bringing awareness to possible attack vectors or worst-case scenarios, but be realistic. Delusions and paranoia aren't at all useful.
3 Adam Curtis' Can't Get You Out of My Head makes a similar case with respect to conspiracy theories and their ability to erode hope, one's drive to act.