More Privacy Online, Less Privacy In Public

Most people believe that there are high levels of privacy in the real
world, unlike the online world. Many understand that CCTV cameras
and the like diminish real world privacy somewhat, but not to a great
degree. The recordings are not stored indefinitely,
unlike online data stored by the NSA and private companies. The real
world has a level of privacy not found online. That said, the tides
are changing. The physical world is becoming less private by the
day. At the same time, online privacy is slowly beginning to increase.

In the real world, police and private companies have used camera
systems to monitor thefts in shops. With the decrease in camera cost, and new
developments in analysis software, they can stitch together multiple
public camera feeds into an overview of large areas. They can
track individuals from one city block to another, given there are cameras in
both areas. With less expensive storage technology, police agencies
can probably keep recordings from these cameras for longer periods of
time. This would be bad for privacy, but may not actually help police
much either. Crimes are usually reported within a day. More than a
day’s worth of storage would probably not help much, unless police
want to take down a drug dealer that works in public. Even then, no
drug dealer would sell in front of a CCTV camera rather than go indoors.

Public and private drones are becoming increasingly common, and may
also diminish real world privacy. Drones have capabilities which CCTV
cameras do not. They are often used to track and follow particular
individuals, even in locations where CCTV cameras aren’t available. A
single high-altitude drone can monitor a large area, and governments
do not have to spend money installing a large surveillance system on
the ground. Drone use is especially common in the war against ISIS,
but governments could deploy similar technologies for local policing.

Private drones may be more problematic. Anyone could potentially
track anybody else. People complain about online stalking
today. Drones may move the concern back to physical stalking. However,
personal drones themselves can be easily tracked. Most consumers will
probably not be able to afford a high-altitude drone used by
governments. They will only have access to smaller ones that need to
be much closer in order to track people. If a small quadrocopter is
following someone around, they will probably notice. Cyber stalkers
can stalk people without their knowledge. Drone users won’t have this
ability.

On the other hand, the physical presence of real
world stalking makes drones potentially worse. Cyber stalkers don’t
necessarily know your location at all times, but drone users will. Like
online NSA data collection and cyber stalking, both government and
private drone use will likely have their own downsides.

The virtual real may be doing much better in the future, at least in
terms of privacy. The most widely used chat apps now contain
end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp automatically encrypts all messages,
Facebook is releasing optional encryption for their Messenger app, and
Google’s Allo has an optional encrypted chat feature. Google’s new
video calling app also comes with encryption built-in by default.

Websites have a long way to go, but web browsing is becoming more
secure as well. LetsEncrypt, the organization providing free SSL
(Secure Sockets Layer) certification to websites, has added over 7
million domains. SSL enables encrypted connection to all of these
websites. There are still numerous setbacks towards becoming more
secure online. For example, Google’s servers may b handing data to the
NSA, which makes its use of SSL pointless. Most online security issues
will not go away anytime soon, but we are at least moving towards
increased security.

While one’s public actions are under surveillance, one’s virtual
actions are increasingly secure. If both trends continue, we may end
up with amazing privacy online and absolutely none in public.

A real-life surveillance state would be far more useful than a virtual
one. People do commit crimes through the internet, but it’s impossible
to kill someone through their computer. NSA data gathering can’t solve
murders, and they don’t seem capable of preventing terrorist attacks either.
CCTV cameras and drones may actually be able to make public spaces
safer. This form of surveillance wouldn’t be as intrusive either. If someone is
out in public, everyone can see them. There is no reasonable
expectation of privacy. CCTV cameras and drones should not make any
difference to people’s behavior. This is not the case for private
communications. I would rather live in a safer world with
public surveillance than the current regime that seems to lack both
public safety and online privacy.

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3 thoughts on “More Privacy Online, Less Privacy In Public

  1. lol, all the crypto kids hate you now because you said SSL instead of TLS. Also I think something changes psychologically when public actions aren’t merely ephemerally public. Like the difference between “footage” of me on the bus only being available to other strangers on the bus and it being available for say 7 days to law enforcement is rationally negligible, but it feels different.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure if the psychological effects would be particularly large. People already live under CCTV surveillance in many cities and feel relatively normal (as far as I can tell).
      This might change if the trend continues and mass surveillance becomes more common. Perhaps the people living in large cities would not mind, but others (who have not moves to these areas) would have a problem with it.

      Like

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