Privacy Is the New Premium

Privacy Is the New Premium

Have you ever noticed how all those new changes in Facebook automatically apply to your account? They don't come to you and say, "Listen, we think we have an awesome idea about an upgrade. You may like it. You may not. Would you like to give it a go and see if it's worth keeping?"

No way. That's now how it works. People would nearly always say, "No, I want to keep my experience the same as it is." (Or, they might even say, "Could you even back up the interface to two or three iterations ago? That's when I really loved Facebook.")

And while that may not sound like an issue directly relating to privacy, we've seen time and again that the social network's shifts involve a great deal of permissions that are automatically assumed. You probably wouldn't mind anyway, right?

Let's face it. These are social networks who make money on big data. They have the right to make these changes, and they have the right to make a living. Even though the service is "free"; it's not really free.

Getting Rid of Anonymous Users

Speaking of social networks, have you tried signing up for an account on Facebook or Google lately? I assume that you probably already have at least one account on either of those services.

Let's say you just wanted to create a quick email address to sign up for a coupon or a giveaway. You know the types. You give them information, and then they spam you for the rest of eternity. Anyway, if you hop in Google to create that quick account, you have to give them your actual name to get started. (Lifehacker wrote about a way around this if you really want to at least start the process without a name. Just don't expect to stay under the radar forever.)

Google's intent (and Facebook, as well as others) behind doing this is to get rid of anonymous commenters - and with valid reason. People did a lot of stupid stuff as anonymous users, like leave hateful reviews and say things that were exceedingly cruel. It's at least more difficult to do something like that when that behavior will clearly be attributed to your name.

But still, a form of privacy is not an option with these services. Yes, you can go elsewhere, but this is an important shift in how things are done online.

Beyond the Internet

But today, these privacy issues go far beyond social networks. Conspiracy theorists have always been concerned about satellites tracking everything we do, but we now we have drones in the air much closer (relatively) than satellites. And their "eyes" are amazing. Check out this video on a relatively new drone that the United States wants to keep in the air.

Most likely, these types of tech would focus over heavily congested areas like New York and Los Angeles, but technology is always getting cheaper to produce. In a few years, they could easily have drones that could cover more space and stay in the air longer. It would only be a matter of time before the entire United States could be completely covered (as well as a decent stretch along the borders with Canada and Mexico).

I don't write this to scare anyone and say that we're doomed to live in a police state. There is plenty of legislation in discussion now about how we're going to handle drones in the air. After all, the government isn't the only one interested in filling the skies. Think about how cheap it would be to have a traffic drone giving up to date conditions on the interstate at rush hour. Think about how easy deliveries could be for small, priority packages. These drones are like mechanical homing pigeons.

As surveillance technology improves, so does technology meant to detect or to thwart surveillance. Think about the devices you can keep in your car that are supposed to alert you to police radar. You know, so that you can triply make sure you're obeying the speed limit. (I mean, obviously you already were, but now you can make sure again. Right?)

And those devices were just meant to detect radar. What about the devices that will create static for drones or for satellites? Are there laws against such a thing? Will there be?

If laws do develop in that direction, then the only opportunity for actual privacy would be indoors. We've all seen enough TV to know how easily that can be compromised, but it's at least possible to maintain.

What's Next?

Buy an underground bunker and never come out.

Okay, not really. But those underground bunkers are pretty cool.

What's next is that we stay aware of what's happening. We vote with our wallets (and our online clicks) as to what services we will support. When needed, we approach our appointed officials to voice our concerns. We have the power to be active.

The key is being aware.

What about You?

Are you worried about these changes in privacy? Do you think it will work itself out on its own? How do you feel about it?

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