I don’t think it’s possible to back out from the NSA’s spying infrastructure. Even if they could be persuaded to stop, the UK, Russia, China, France, and others, would continue.
Furthermore, companies like google and faceboot are collecting our private information, digesting it, and selling it to the dark side (such as advertisers). In effect, they give us trinkets for our gold, sell the gold, and make billions. The buying conmen and liars use it to try and rip us off (if a product was as good as advertisers claimed, it would sell itself, so it wouldn’t need advertising—thus the claims are false, & advertisers are liars).
The value for corporates comes from being the middle man: not everyone can get our private details. Would advertisers buy information from faceboot if it were freely available?
All the same, those trinkets the corporates give us are better than no trinkets. If justice were poetic, we’d get the real value of our personal information, and google and faceboot and the like would, with clever accounting and solid management, just about balance their books.
At least the corporates are obeying the laws, which, given the way the US system works, they probably wrote themselves. Another group of people who want your private information are the criminals. They make money stealing the things needed for identity impersonation, they steal your reputation.
The state is getting everyone’s private details. Corporates are getting almost everyone’s private details. Criminals are getting many peoples’ private details. We law–abiding citizens, we get no–one’s private details. We are the losers, yet it’s our private information that’s being stolen.
So if the Chinese, and the Americans, and the British, and the advertisers, and google, and faceboot, and the crackers, have all got my private details and your private details and everyone’s private details, then what’s left for privacy? There’s nothing left.
The bag is open, the cat has gone. The question now is who should have this information? Just the state bastards who stole it? Just the rich bastards who fob us off with trinkets? The criminals? Or everyone?
Why reward only the unscrupulous? We should reward everyone. We have to democratise our data so everyone has access, if they could be arsed.
That way, just as the NSA would spot exactly what you had been up to over the weekend, so you could do the same for the boss of the NSA. Just as faceboot could spot exactly what you had been up to, so you could do the same for the faceboot boss. Similarly for the digirati mafiosa. The loss of privacy would become a little quid pro quo. We normal people would get a little of our stolen power back.
We have to democratise our data.
Of course, there will have to be changes. Identity verification will not be able to depend simply on supposédly confidential information, since that will be freely available for everyone, not just criminals, corporates and spies.
But that’s just a technical problem. The old solutions still work: even now, I have to carry my identity documents around. We can use electronic signatures online. Identity verification that doesn’t depend on faux—confidential knowledge is a technical problem with existing technical solutions. They might need to tidy up those solutions to make them easier to use and more reliable, but they exist and they can work.
So we can democratise our data.
All this is why, on balance, I think Snowden had a very good point. I’m not convinced his solution of leaking the NSA’s soiled underware was correct approach, but he’s right that we need to address the problem.
We have to democratise our data.