Flat White

Privacy fears over the corona app? We lost our privacy long ago

24 April 2020

2:08 PM

24 April 2020

2:08 PM

All this carry-on about the corona app is way too late. Worrying about our privacy? We lost that a while back. 

The world-renowned superspook Steven Rambam has said that privacy is a thing of the past. The scary thing about this is that he said it 10 years ago. CCTV cameras are literally everywhere these days. It is said that there are 175 million of them in China alone.    

Princeton University researchers reported a couple of years ago that your phone can be tracked even if the GPS and Location services are disabled. 

The term “nowhere to hide” is no longer just a good name for a movie, it is rapidly becoming an out of control fact of modern life that applies to everyone. 

I have never read one of those privacy policies you see around the place. In fact, I don’t know anyone who has, which is quite surprising really because they are everywhere. Companies, government departments, charities, solicitors, doctors, accountants — you name it they’ve got one. Of course, in many cases they are a legal requirement — but exactly what purpose do they serve? 

Everyone has had the online experience of not being able to proceed to the next step until we have ticked the box saying that we agree to the privacy policy and everyone knows we haven’t read it but we tick the box anyway. 

We should not feel protected by these privacy policies, considering that in 2019 in Australia, there were 89 reportable data breaches, including those self-described fortresses of privacy, Govt. Departments and banks.  When perusing the list, it difficult to imagine anyone not being affected by this in some way. 

Modern technology provides that once having given up a piece of privacy it will be somewhere on the records until the day we die and probably well beyond that. I recently saw a printout from my doctor of my medical history and was a bit startled to see that my tonsils had been removed in 1952. For me, a long-forgotten event but not so the medical system. This could no doubt be a source of some comfort for those with a more complicated record and a subsequent need to remember details. 

There is nothing about us that is not on the net. Our shoe size, our hat size and everything in between, it’s all there. Algorithms can be employed to scour the net and scoop it all up, building a personal profile in astonishing detail. 

A recent experience with a hairdresser, however, had me somewhat flummoxed. I don’t like going to men’s barbers much these days as they seem hell-bent on turning out their customers with the most bizarre haircuts, sometimes even to the extent of razoring their girlfriend’s initials into an otherwise fairly standard short back and sides. My regular ladies hairdresser was booked out so I went to the opposition just up the street. All went smoothly until it came time to pay, when I was asked for my name, address and phone number. She explained that the transaction could not proceed without these details. Taken aback at this intrusion into my privacy, I reluctantly complied, hoping that maybe I would automatically go into a draw to win a Jeep Cherokee or something similar. 

We are rapidly reaching a point where we can’t go anywhere or do anything without it being recorded. Is this a bad thing? Older generations will feel uncomfortable and cautious whilst those who have known nothing different, will accept it as normal. In any event, everyone will feel that there is nothing we can do about it. It is often said that, if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about, but what is OK today may be frowned upon in years to come. 

We do, however, have plenty to worry about, not the least being identity theft which can result in a complete loss of personal assets.  

Perhaps even more seriously and in an apparent contradiction, we are being stripped of our personality and our individuality. The freedoms of thought and expression are grist for the mill of those who demand conformity. We are being categorised, grouped and identified according to some algorithm’s interpretation of our likes.

Legislators can’t keep up with technology but in an apparent absurdity, they have made it illegal, in certain circumstances, to ask someone their age or to state whether they are male or female. The most basic aspects of our being. Job applicants can suffer disappointment if their internet image is less than complimentary. Be careful with that Tinder app. 

Peter Scammell blogs at www.dinosaurdiary.com.au.

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