Say NO to Privacy

Big Data is the new big thing. Data collection and mining and all that this entails. We have government ministries exploring data mining possibilities while other government ministries try to protect our privacy. The kids these days have no use for this formal kind of privacy and us older folk berate them for it. We show exactly how all this data they toss about can be used against them. But, you know, they’re right. In the end, their way will be the way it is. Our old private ways will be laughed at, and feared.

We are, of course, right too. Data will be mined and used against the people. There is great risk involved and very bad things can happen. However, there is also a solution. Information is power. If you have information about someone, you can use it against them. But, that’s only true if they don’t have information about you, particularly that you are using their information against them. While this sounds convoluted, it’s actually very simple. No privacy, none at all, and there’s no problem. This is where we’re heading. The problem is we’re not getting there fast enough.

We need privacy advocates because the information is uneven, because ‘they’ are collecting way more information about ‘us’ than we are about them. It’s not fair and the information imbalance can be used against the losing side. These privacy advocates can help, but they are not a real solution. For every obstacle put up to protect privacy there will be multiple paths around. For those of us on the losing side, there is a solution, a No Privacy Union.

How do we create a No Privacy Union? We take the same data mining techniques that government and big business are using and we put them up on a web service that we can all access. We have the advantage in numbers for this. We don’t need super-sophisticated data analysers and the like because we can crowdsource. But, we still need data to work with. So, we volunteer to input our data. Everything: all our financial transactions, where we work, where we go, what we do, everything. We scour the media, we input the leaks, we witness events and report what we see. These are inputs. Anyone can take any input and create a data stream; weighting truth, analysing, correlating, and aggregating; that produces an output. Any output can then be weighed and fed back into other streams. We can build data visualisations and patterns will emerge. Anyone can use the data. Yes, it can be used against us. But, we can use it against them too.

How can we use our data against those that hide their data from us? Simple. If they’re not in the No Privacy Union (NPU), we don’t do business with them. We don’t vote for them. We don’t include them in anything. It is a UNION. It is solidarity in numbers. When it’s only a few, the members mean nothing. When there are enough to sway an election, then politicians will take note. When a business bottom line is at stake, they will take note. There is no militancy required, no wars, no aggression. It is as peaceful a revolution as there could ever be. It is simply people sharing.

Imagine a politician that wants to get elected but there are a significant number of NPU voters. There are three choices: One, ignore them and pander to other groups. That works for a while, until the NPU gets too big. Two, villainize them, make them the bad people that other people should vote against. Not going to work too well when everything about these people is public knowledge. The third option will eventually be the only one left. Join them. When the NPU gets big enough then all politicians that want to get elected must join. Now, imagine trying to be a corrupt politician that freely posts all financial transactions. How will this politician be corrupt? When every decision is public, how will this politician make sleazy back-room deals that trade off one group against another? How will this politician use information about people as a weapon?

Imagine a business that wants to stay in business. To sell a product to NPU members, they must be part of the NPU, publishing everything about their company. All financial transactions, all the suppliers, everything. Yes, there are privacy regulations... employees must opt-in to having their payroll information included. Those that opt-out are anonymized; a black spot in the data. The black spots are okay because, like the Big Data being used against us, they will form patterns on their own. Like with the politicians, those sleazy deals and whatnot will become obvious. As data flows around the black spots, they will erode over time, especially when there are financial incentives involved.

The NPU will start out as tiny spots of light in a sea of black privacy. But, as it grows and grows, the light will spread until it is the black that is isolated into clumps. The more light there is, the harder it will be to hide in the dark. Those operating in the dark will be increasingly excluded from the light. This is citizen democracy and there is no stopping it. In the age of Big Data, there can be no privacy for citizens. The only real answer is for citizens to embrace this and demand the same for those that exercise power over us. It is time for us to exercise power over them.

In the future, our children’s future, privacy will be something socially granted. You won’t look at things that should be private because that’s the right thing to do. That, and the fact that you looked will be as much a public record as what you are looking at. Privacy only needs legal enforcement when there is a power imbalance. Where there is no privacy, there is no imbalance, and social limits will be all that are required. Our children can and will end privacy.

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