Our lives are lived in data. Data crossing borders and connected in virtual space. Most often, it appears, we live in open and too easily accessible data networks. States and corporations are watching us through data, and we are watching each other through data. What does individual privacy mean in this data saturated environment?
Privacy is like trust and security; much easier to define when you don’t have it. We know exactly what trust and security are when we find ourselves in a precarious situation where we feel threatened, a situation which reveals someone else’s lie or dishonest actions. It’s something that can make us feel angry, insecure and most importantly, disempowered.
The same is true of privacy; it’s hard to put a finger on it before we realize it’s missing. More and more of us are beginning to sense the lack of privacy in our digital daily lives — and to understand what we are missing and how we feel about it.
When we talk about the need for a more human-centric and ethical approach to today’s data-saturated environments, we are first and foremost talking about balancing the powers embedded in society. Individual privacy is not the only societal value under pressure in the current data-saturated infrastructure. The effects of data practices without ethics can be manifold — unjust treatment, discrimination and unequal opportunities. But privacy is at its core. It’s the needle on the gauge of society’s power balance.