Edward Snowden’s goal was one-sided and direct, that people should know what personal information is being collected, and who is doing it. By making confidential CIA docs public, he got an all expenses paid, long term vacation to the not so warm and tropical state of Russia. Mr. Snowden’s disclosures in 2013 sent citizens of many countries into a ‘oh shit what did I say on the phone to my lawyer last week’ tailspin with his reveal that the NSA and European governments there were running multiple global surveillance programs, with the cooperation of telecommunication companies.
Prior to that, at least in the US, there was a general naivety around government surveillance that was typically chalked up to known terrorists (or those that were unlucky enough to make the list for their preferred choice in wrapped head garment). Otherwise, it was isolated to some Hollywood spy thriller with Liam Neeson listening intently into a conversation that would ultimately be the demise of some, again, scar ridden terrorist. Ecommerce companies in Europe were still concentrating efforts on disclosing cookies, to let consumers know that their data is being collected while they are purchasing the latest Pokemon onesie, or surfing HotFarmers.com.
After Snowden’s Robin Hood-esque decision to make everything ‘fair’, something interesting happened. People quickly sort of reconciled to the fact that they are likely being tracked, recorded and monitored in many facets, and by many entities on a daily basis. Once the initial disclosure was digested around the world, the story just as quickly became about Snowden and was government was going to bow up to the US and offer him asylum, but not really about the privacy rights he burned his American bridges for life, to protect. Even the main point of soapbox agenda that Snowden declared during a SxSW live interview stream, that citizens should be able to vote on whether the data collection should be legal, wasn’t really something the media or US society latched onto.
GET READY TO say good-bye to your online privacy. Not that you ever really had it anyway. – Wired.com
Recently, Wired reported that the FCC is considering rolling back privacy protections for ISP’s, with user’s online lives. It would nullify the requirement to “secure consumer data and obtain consumers’ consent before mining and selling it”. Web activity is arguably the ultimate truth of our lives, not to mention, a log of our super private intellectual curiosity. Our second by second decisions on what we search, engage with, and consume could easily become publically accessible, especially in the hands of a holier than thou, Ashley Madison hating hacker. This includes that latest soft porn romance novel checked out at the library, the anti-tax propaganda documentary watched last week, banking activity (those off shore accounts stacked away for when Corporate has kicked your ass one last time), car navigation routes and google maps, basically everything we do every second of the day. In an Internet of Things world, consumer data is significantly more detailed than the teenage diary you kept in your sock drawer in 8th grade.