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  • Ethan Wai Chi Leung

The Persistent Value of Privacy

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA (National Security Agency) had direct access to the servers of various big U.S. internet companies as well as communication links around the world. It isn’t inconceivable that in 2020, the United States government is capable of accessing our data on major platforms like Facebook or Google. In addition to such government intrusions, there have been concerns regarding online companies that store our data. The tech platforms that store our information have access to it as well, creating a possibility of data leaks or the misuse of private information. A majority of people's private data is stored online. We therefore not only need to be aware of how the government treats our data but how the platforms where we store our data deal with our private information.

Technology is now a crucial component of our daily lives, and even though Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, "privacy is no longer a 'social norm,'" I believe that it is still vital to ensure the protection of one's personal information. A precise definition of privacy may be hard to come by, but to me, privacy is the feeling of being secure and comfortable. Tech companies should learn that if they don't respect our privacy, they violate our personal space.

There is a common misconception that data privacy isn't imperative as long as one has nothing to hide, creating a sense that with technology, the government can track and arrest criminals in an easier manner. Eric Shmidt, the former Google CEO, notoriously promoted this philosophy when he said: "If you are doing something you don't want other people to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

However, even if one has nothing to hide, privacy is still valued by many. There are many examples where we value privacy in our daily life, such as choosing to have curtains so that people walking by can't see us, practicing a musical instrument without an audience, or conversing with our friends. We seek privacy not because we are doing illegal things; we seek privacy because we feel embarrassed or don't feel like exposing ourselves to the public.

Data privacy is no different than any other form of privacy. The 4th amendment states that it is "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, house, papers, and effects." Online data forms part of the modern-day version of one's belongings, and tech companies or the government should be denied access to our data unless their intrusion is justified. Online data holds important information and could be valued more than one's physical belongings; therefore, it should be treated with at least the same respect.

In 2020 privacy seems to be a thing of the past; however, by raising awareness and consciously striving to protect our privacy, laws could be enforced to protect online data. Privacy is essential to control what others see about us and shapes our sense of security. Yet many people don't understand how vulnerable their data is when stored online.

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