SecuriTea Leaves : A Series on Privacy, Security, and Their Possible Futures

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Privacy and security are intertwined elements, each fuel for the other’s fire. What you want kept to yourself isn’t always a dirty secret but is sometimes best left hidden away from others. My grandmother kept every personal document and bill under lock and key.  She wouldn’t give anyone her SSN or even her middle name unless they showed her a government ID, and even then it was after much resistance. When I see these companies providing identity theft protection services, I think of my grandmother. It is her generation that maintains that level of commitment to privacy, not ours.

Our generation still respects the idea of privacy. We’re just not as steadfast. We invest in curtains and aren’t too gabby with our neighbors. We still have a few secrets, but we have become more than comfortable putting most details of our lives online. We email, share pics and status updates, file our taxes, fill out government forms, enter our email address everywhere, and blindly agree to dozens of contracts each year (SLAs). We look through the details of what the new app we downloaded will access, huff and puff for a bit about why it needs what it needs, and then reluctantly agree to its demands because desire wins over caution.

When we read about breaches that result in thousands of emails and passwords being stolen, we still care, but we don’t rush to change our passwords. Our online behavior goes unchanged. Our level of sharing goes unaltered. We might not shop at Target for a few months, but we will return again, with our credit cards in hand. It is this awareness of risk with little personal effort to combat it that proves the fight for privacy and security is dying. We are connected. We are plugged in. There is no turning back. The idea of reverting to offline banking and consumerism is laughable. A want for knowledge and access combined with forfeiture of privacy is diluting security.

Interest in data breaches will wane, to the point where they are no longer big news, and what seemed of upmost importance will be forgotten history. Now when we see data breach stories we feel saddened by the state of data security but assume things will get better. We think, “New security measures will surely be put in place. Existing ones will be made stronger. It will get better.”  But, like generations before us, our generation is giving way to new thinking and new ideas of privacy. The new Internet is one of openness and perpetual unfiltered documentation, not privacy and selective sharing. What impact will that have on the future of security, when the need for privacy lessens? If our dying generation is the last one concerned over privacy, what motivation is there for these security enhancements?

In this series of posts I will describe the possible futures of the privacy plate shift we’re riding right now and how it relates to the landscape of security. (I will post each future separately so there may be comments on each.)

Next post: Future 1. Individuality is practically gone. If privacy is only a concern for the singular person then a collective needs no privacy.

Do you have examples of privacy perspective changes you’ve made over time? Have you resisted personal data sharing or online activities out of concern for security or privacy?

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