My very own personal privacy training

I remember a time – and it wasn’t even that long ago – when the government, companies and organizations weren’t this hell-bent on collecting citizen, customer and user data. It’s not that they didn’t gather any, but they were not nearly as greedy for it as they are today. They obviously took to heart the saying that knowledge is power.

A thought about it a lot in the last couple of years, and I came to the conclusion that when they asked you to share information in those past days, the request seemed to have a purpose that was aligned with your interests.

Today it feels like they are only out to get you – whether they want to buy (buy, buy!), track your behavior (online and offline) or get as much information as they can simply because they think they might want to use it at one point in the future.

This switch of perspective didn’t come suddenly. The path was paved little by little over the years – I think most of you are familiar with the metaphorical boiling frog – and that explains, in part, why we have more or less accepted the shift.

And perhaps I wouldn’t feel as vulnerable as I do parting with every little bit of information all these entities try to pry from me were it not for a fact that I know – KNOW! – that sooner or later this information will leak into the wrong hands and be used for purposes that will make my life at least a little bit more complicated and harder.

So I – like many people out there, I suspect – have resorted to a simple tactic that I feel obligated to carry out in order to retain some peace of mind: I lie.

Obviously, I can’t lie to the government, so I decline to provide information when possible. But every time a business or an organization of any kind asks for information they need just to make their marketing and operation easier, I force myself to lie.

Yes, I have to force myself, because it does not come naturally for me. In fact, one of the greatest human weaknesses is that most of us are inherently trusting and forthcoming about ourselves and the things we are / do / care about in life – as every social engineer with readily confirm.

In this, I am like the majority, and so I have to constantly work on my ability to ask inopportune questions when I’m expected to let it slide without a peep, and to still say no after I am given a weak explanation for the sake of form.

Another thing that often trips our better judgement when asked to do things we don’t really want is our natural tendency to comply with requests made by anyone that we consider to be a figure of authority. Once again, I’ve found that I have to force myself to stop and think whether my perception on this matter is correct or just a product of social conditioning. Guess what? Most of the time it’s the latter.

All these efforts and my tendency for keeping my cards close to my chest are understandably a direct consequence of the work I do for a living. You might say – and I unfortunately also suspect you might be correct – that at the rate the world is going we’re in for an inevitable downward slide into a total lack of privacy, and that eventually all the things I might wish to keep private will not be.

But I still can’t accept that, and neither should you.

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