Privacy is dead, long live privacy

This blogpost will argue that the generation project of us the milennials needs to be the safe transition into an ecologically sustainable information society that respects privacy.

Today I attended a movie screening of the movie Google and The World Brain. Following the movie was a debate on the issue of privacy. Present in the debate was:

  • Gisle Hannemyr, A scholar from the University of Oslo
  • Per Rune Henriksen, Politician, Arbeiderpartiet (Labour party)
  • Sveinung Rotevatn, Stortinget, Venstre (Left party)
  • Georg Apenes, council member of Digital privacy protection and former director of our Norwegian Dataprotection organisation (Datatilsynet).

The debate was actually quite engaging, and it revolved around Norway’s implementation of EU’s data storage directive. Here are some key takeaways I had.

The current privacy law in its original form prohibits the export of Norwegian person data. However, through the safe harbor act we and many other countries agree to let their inhabitants submit their data to US businesses. The important point is that when politicians say that there’s nothing we can do against the data gathering practices of Google, Facebook and NSA they’re actually avoiding the unpleasant fact that we can actually cancel the safe harbor act. Naturally, this would hamper business happening across the atlantic tremendously. Privacy is bad for business is what our politicians are meekly avoiding to mention. On a similar note, one might also argue that Norway is implementing EU’s data storage directive because we don’t want to offend EU.

With the safe harbor act USA agreed that it would respect the privacy laws of many countries. And with the Snowden revelations we see how much those assurances were worth. The question becomes, what should our politicians do about this? One very strong argument in the debate is that our politicians could for instance stop speaking in two tongues through which they say:

  1. We have strong privacy laws in place.
  2. We can’t really prevent companies or the state from breaking these laws.

If there truly isn’t to be any privacy in our society our politicians need to stop preaching like there is. If laws like our privacy law don’t matter that undermines our judicial state and our democracy.

Competence == Concern

My opinion is that just like teaching our younger generation about the importance of recycling so should we teach them the importance of data privay in an information age. Despite the distribution of laptops and smartphones in our society we haven’t achieved any real digital competence amongst our young. Our young & old have become professional Facebook users, submissive expert users.

No wonder a large part of society think they’re powerless against the likes of Facebook and Google. It’s because they could never imagine themselves building an alternative. We need to wake up from this technological determinism.

My hope is that actually teaching our young how to create will be the key to dispelling this deterministic notion of “just because they made it, we should use it.”

This is why teaching our kids to code is vital: Lær Kidsa Koding And we should be aware of the alternatives out there: prism-break.org

I’ll be happy if I can help ten of my friends protect ten of their friends protecting ten of their friends again. But that is a topic for another discussion. For now I’ll just propose that a safe transition into a ecologically sustainable information society could be the collective project of our generation.

For extra-credit you could watch the video below. CamOver a fascinating alternate reality game. Please note, I do not condone vandalism. The key takeaway here is simply the passion to which these people protect their privacy.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.