Online Privacy, Myth or a Scam?

By now if you haven't consumed any sort of media or article which hasn't scared you about your privacy with tech and online privacy then you might be living under a rock. If you have, then I hope this article does shed some light on the fear mongering that's going on.

Before I begin, even though I know there are generalists who just love to bundle all the issues and look at them as one general topic. Later on they search for a scape goat to push the blames on and swipe off their hands clean essentially doing nothing. Here, I'm not going to do that. To solve a problem you have to understand the underlying issue and which cannot be generalised. So everything you might read from here will have exceptions and outliers so I'm assuming that's understandable already.

No matter what platform you choose or even go offline. There's this constant wave of fear which is being spread with respect to privacy. Some reputable organizations are also earning handsomely all thanks to this fear wave. Everywhere there's just one slogan,"They store and use your data." Okay, I understand that they're storing and using my data, but for what?

The answers can mostly be generalised into these 3 subsections, namely:
1. Government surveillance
2. Big Corporations using you as products to make money
3. Bad actors knowing too much about you can possibly harm you.

Let's dive deeper into all of these angles to understand what exactly should we be scared off or maybe it's all just a hoax?

1. Government Surveillance

Every argument ever first lands at this topic. Why everyone is so scared of government surveillance anyway? I feel unless you're doing something that you should not, there's no need to be scared of it. But that way of thinking would certainly be naive right? What if this is really bad?

Why would the government feel the need to control the masses by using surveillance? No matter how much some politically inclined entities would want us to believe, I don't think there's really some megalomaniac who wants to rule the world and make everyone a brainless tool. As much as I can see the threat is real, even a kid can see the scare mongering hoax behind it.

Give me a way, if you were in the government, could use to reduce the bad actors inside a system and encourage proper stability in a country. Obviously this includes every factor to look at in terms of administration. But here's a catch, you can't collect any data indirectly, you can use surveys, ask people and conduct survey polls to see what's that people need and what's should be on your administration agenda.

If you ever managed even a group, you'd realise the stupidity of this idea. One's wishes and needs are different. Everyone wishes for a fat paycheck but doesn't need one or isn't able to earn one and that's what mostly motivates the criminal. No criminal is going to be happy to share their data. At the same time being an administrative official, you wouldn't want to reduce your state into chaos where other countries, people of your own country, bad actors, all want to bring it down right?

Find me a way where you can show there's something better than what governments are trying to achieve right now? Obviously this is to just counter the fear hyped argument that's being spread online and not everyone/everything is as good as it looks to be.

2. Big Corporate

When it comes to big organizations, I don't have to name any. There's an endless flurry of how it can be misused and how it has positive uses. Remember, social media is a piece of tech aimed at pleasing people by showing what they want to see inherently. By doing that, people would stay and spend more time on their apps and thus in turn they can show more ads.

There's an endless debate regarding personalised and generalised ads targetting mechanism. It's a no brainer to understand that personalised ads would generate more sales and in turn drive in more advertisers to the platform at the same time it'll annoy people less compared to some random product ad which is totally unrelated shoved at their face more than a couple of times in an hour.

Many pricing models attempted, if people really cared about privacy, they would've started paying for services and just enjoyed them. But here there's a huge problem. Even if you pay for a privacy focused app which doesn't track, if it doesn't allow cross platform use i.e. the ability for you who has purchased a service to get rid of tracking and wants to use service to connect to the user of another service who is happy using that free poor privacy app, and isn't able to. This would at the end discourage people from paying for the service and get back to that same old everyone's using app with horrible privacy. Why? Because socials are a tool, and if you're not able to utilise a tool effectively, it's useless.

Incase you're using a privacy focused service that allows you to connect to user using another service, it's totally ineffective as that service would anyway recieve the whole communication and can track you the same way? At the end, you'll still be back to same square where you started from and effectively at a loss.

Essentially social media can be said as a non human representation of that person in a group who knows everything, every juicy gossip and loves sharing it with others. Almost every member in the group hates that person but also wants to keep a good relationship with that person so that they get to know interesting gossips. Aren't we really all bunch of hypocrites?

Also telemetry, is really helpful for developers who try to decide on what feature or improvement should we focus on while developing any app. Barely anyone answers the app surveys and provides a review only when something doesn't work. For a developer, it's really not helpful. But then telemetry is labelled shady and is frowned upon. Provide another way which can benefit the developer? No one likes filling surveys every now and then and no one likes someone's preferences being prioritised in any app. ( One of the reasons open source never has touched marked without being tainted by commerce).

3. Bad actors in any system

Now if there's something and has a use, it can be classified into a good use and bad use. The whole theory of good and bad relies on the perspective of the one who looks at it.

It'll be really hard to pinpoint one thing that's totally good and one that's totally bad. But still there are malicious actors who always gain favor from both sides. Some would sell you shady solutions calling it privacy focused, while some will be outright shameless and sell the data that they gathered by calling themselves an appropriate legal entity name.

Then what would be the conclusion of this whole thing? I'd say, don't get blown away by these privacy focused labels and reason before buying in into any idea. You should be scared only if you're hiding something else your neighbours are nosy enough to know most details about you, we don't need any app for that, haha.

Also, I'd like to quote one thing which my networking professor had said.

"If anything touches the internet, it's no longer private"

Keep that in mind before subscribing to any propaganda going around the globe.
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