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The day and age of modern technology has spawned a new level of comfort, or lack there of, with our privacy. There was once a time in America that homes closed up their currents after dark and parents would tell their children, “we don’t want the neighbors peeking in.” Privacy, in past generations, was valued heavily.
But those days are gone. And the funny thing with those days being gone is that many people don’t realize they are gone. People have become numb to great privacy collapse. People who used to tighten up the last sliver of exiting lamp light from their curtains, now somehow conveniently numb to the fact that their iPhone’s Facebook app might listen to their conversations. The masses have exchanged their personal privacy for the convenience and excitement of smart technology. People do not even blink an eye when a “free app” ask them for personal data in exchange for “free” use of the product. People hardly read agreements, mostly because agreements are strategically placed as a wall in front of what the consumer really wants. The agreements vernacular are also indecipherable to the common man. No one understands them.
Both the Obama and Bush administrations were condemned by privacy experts who feel that both administrations overstepped via the NSA. In fact, anti-privacy businesses that “make you disappear” like Patriot Privacy now exist and thrive due to people waking up and realizing how much they’ve been spied on. People are more than ever, attempting to take their privacy “off grid.”
As a prepper news website, I can tell you this, you need to audit the technology that you use. But I can also humble you with another point: People really don’t care. And technology producers know this. As much as the privacy rumblings go on and on, people aren’t about to give up their smart phones, or voice activated assistants or Roombas. Most people would exchange a map of their home being sold to a corporation rather than push a vacuum cleaner around the home.
Once you click “I agree” on the shiny new product, your privacy is compromised. Software developers can now rummage through personal details such as your location, your contacts, things you say. And once they have it, they can choose to sell it or use it to remarket to you for future products. You clicked “I agree,” right?
Privacy watchdog groups, however, are taking notice and trying to do the work the rest of us should be doing ourselves. Some data experts even believe that corporate extractions of personal information is even a national security threat. The fear is that people may one day come to realize that these user agreements they’ve one clicked through have traded off a lot more private data than they realized. And at that point, we will be in a bit of a mess. The data will be owned by big corporations and it isn’t as if you can just knock on their door to get it back. And if they’ve resold it, odds are, it would be an impractical, impossible feat to retrieve it.
iRobot, the makers of Roomba, announced their intention to collect data over home mapping, however, iRobot chief executive Colin Angle said, “iRobot will never sell your data.” He added that such information “needs to be controlled by the customer and not as a data asset of a corporation to exploit.”
So what is the solution? Are we to all just give up our phones, burn them in large vats in the middle of the streets at night? I don’t think so. Smart phones have their place in our modern society.
Privacy advocates hope to influence new legislation, but being that I’m a prepper website, I can’t think of anything worse than reliance on the government. Remember, I pointed out in the introduction of this article that the NSA is one of the largest privacy confiscators around. Why would we push for such action from a group that does worse?
The issue is the end user agreements. Privacy advocates want the government to intervene on these agreements. Essentially, make them more “clear” to the user. Let’s hit the pause button for a second. How many of us really believe that this privacy breach is due to a general inadequate understanding of user agreements?
Let’s go further: How many of the people who know the user agreement contains a consent to personal data collection would opt to not use the device? That’s what we really need to look at before we decide to blame an agreement. Because just clarifying the agreement means more people understand the agreement, it doesn’t mean that more people will take any sort of stand.
Someone gets home and opens their $100 virtual assistant. A user agreement pops up in the middle of the excitement of activating the new purchase and it reads “your personal data will be sold, please click YES to agree and begin using your amazing new product.” Does that change anything?
There are only two possible influencers of change:
1) People, in mass, stop purchasing products that do not allow us to opt out of data collection.
2) Merchandisers must allow users to opt out of data collections without severely limiting the functionality of the product (this is complicated territory).
3) Laws need to be passed to make the collection of data illegal in various scopes (good luck and this could harm the economy).
Not simple, is it?
I think the first way to solve this is for people to stop relying on unnecessary technology. We all need smart phones. We can make some sacrifices for social media. But do we really need to call out “order me an Uber” across the room? We are being reduced to lazy specimens that can’t be inconvenienced by basic tasks, all for the sake of turning us into hamsters. They are selling us the wheels we spin in. Our incessant need to be entertained is also problematic. At what costs to do we need entertainment? Many people are so reliant on recommended movies and shows that I’m not sure they could even choose for themselves anymore.
We can turn off an app or two, we can detach from a device or four, and our lives will go on. We can reduce the amount of privacy we exchange for convenience. But it will require awareness and motivation. Hopefully, we still have some left.