Privacy is the ability to operate by creating barriers and manage with we do absent outside interference. Due to anonymity, people are able to interact with the world around us by limiting who has access to us, information, or our identity.
It is a relatively new innovation, introduced primarily in the Western world with Britain and the United States leading the way. It was something that was foreign in most cultures until the last few hundred years.
Privacy And Security
Privacy is often linked to security. There are situations where being anonymous is a matter of safety. Whether it is protection from governments, corporations, or other individuals, privacy can be a barrier whereby one is protected from those who seek retribution.
One of the key areas we see this in the developed world is with whistleblowers. These are individuals who reveal working by companies, often by going to either the media or authorities. This is often done while someone is still employed at the firm. Naturally, it is usually required as they have access to inside and up-to-date information.
We can easily see how one needs to be protected from retribution by those who are profiting from the wrongdoing at a firm. If there was no privacy, the entire process would breakdown.
Over the last couple decades, privacy has become a major topic of conversation due to the advancement of the digital world. As this keeps expanding, the issues associated with the lack of privacy become even clearer.
Much of this stems back to the original conclusions drawn by the Cypherpunk pioneers. This group valued privacy as a fundamental right of the digital realm. Unfortunately, their forecast was that it would be eliminated, something that has come true. Today, between web sites, search engines, and our phones, we are monitored in ways we can only imagine. Everything we do is tracked.
This was the fear of people such as David Chaum. He spent the last few decades working on software systems that provide people with the ability to operate with a degree of anonymity. His belief is that privacy is fundamental to democracy and that, without privacy, it fails completely.
We now are immersed in a world of surveillance capitalism. This is a concept that stemmed from the major technology companies operating on the Internet. People engage with these platforms and their data is farmed. This is then sold to advertisers who then target the individuals.
Privacy is a major factor in equalizing power imbalances. We see this with governments where they have the ability to write laws to take advantage of the population. Much in the same with with whistleblowers, we see similar situations with different government employees. This can be anyone from politicians to police officers.
Of course, once again, fear of retribution can be a deterrent in people coming forward. Fear is a powerful weapon when one is engaging in wrongdoing. This gets compounded when the one undertaking such behavior is in a position of authority.
Without privacy, the "bullies" are able to leverage their position for greater gain. Most democratic systems were established on the idea of checks and balances. At the same time, we saw how important an independent and free press is. This is a situation that might even be more important as we realize our media outlets are owned by a handful of corporations.