That our privacy is a distant memory from the long-gone past in the best case is not going to surprise anyone. With the likes of Facebook and Amazon collecting exorbitant amounts of our private data, it would not be far-fetched to think that these companies, among others, know as much about us as we do ourselves.
But it bears asking a question: why is it so? It did not happen overnight. So what did happen?
There are many reasons behind it: greed, the maniacal need of the governments and corporations to exert control over people, the normalization of the 100% exposed lifestyle, etc. But there is another one that is often overlooked, and it is the desire for convenience.
Most people’s attitude towards Google is a good example of this desire. Almost everybody knows today how money-grabbing and disrespectful of their privacy it is and yet almost everybody uses it daily. Why? Because it is convenient. Sure, it collects every bit of information about you it can but it matters precious little to many people.
It is not that there are no alternatives to Google and other such megacorporations that prevents us from stopping the invasion into our privacy and thus disrupting the market for our private data. It is that it takes too much effort to go to the settings of our browser and change the default search engine. Speaking of browsers, it is even harder to switch from Chrome to something more privacy-oriented like Firefox. This insurmountable task requires five whole minutes – much more than most are ready to spend.
As for less trivial solutions aimed at protecting our privacy, virtually nobody implements them despite everything Snowden has recommended. Installing Linux instead of Windows 10? It seems like the best time to do that, now that it supports the WireGuard protocol which is considered one of the safest and fastest. Some of the most powerful VPN services such as Mullvad run on it. But alas, the desire for convenience firmly stands in the way.
Such complacency is what delivers us right into the hands of the not-so-metaphorical anymore Big Brother. We are watched, we are recorded – and we are fine with it.
Additional incentives can be used to lure more people in. Apart from the desire for convenience, there is also the inability to withstand any promise of a profit here and now, no matter how minuscule said profit may be.
Like a carrot dangling in front of a donkey’s eyes, many people are drawn into forgoing their privacy for minimal discounts.
It can be seen everywhere today. Everything from a parking lot to a vending machine now seems to require a mobile app installed on your phone to actually work. They did not need anything of the sort for decades but now they suddenly do. The reason? To collect our private data.
Targeted ads are the least nefarious purpose of it. Others include massive-scale surveillance and, potentially, establishing a social credit system akin to the one implemented in China.
While our desire for convenience and profit is by no means the only thing that has led to this, it is still very much to blame.
But the worst thing about them is that, unlike an occasional greedy corporation overstepping laws or even an authoritarian government that can be toppled, these desires will stay with us for a long, long time.
After all, they are a part of human nature.