Technology Will Not Solve Privacy Issues

Harvard Law School professor and quixotic Democratic presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig thinks that future technology will solve our privacy issues.

The average cost per user of a data breach is now $240 … think of businesses looking at that cost and saying “What if I can find a way to not hold that data, but the value of that data?” When we do that, our concept of privacy will be different. Our concept so far is that we should give people control over copies of data. In the future, we will not worry about copies of data, but using data. The paradigm of required use will develop once we have really simple ways to hold data. If I were king, I would say it’s too early. Let’s muddle through the next few years. The costs are costly, but the current model of privacy will not make sense going forward.

If I ping a service, and it tells me someone is over 18, I don’t need to hold that fact. … The level of security I have to apply … [is not] the same [that] would be required if I was holding all of this data on my servers. This will radically change the burden of security that people will have.

He’s wrong.

Back in the nineties and early aughts when the Internet was a new and wondrous beast, all of us in the tech sector believed that technology would open up society. The internet would make everyone anonymous. File sharers and pirates couldn’t be caught – but also, free speech would reign supreme and everyone could speak their mind without fear of reprisal. Web sites would give a voice to the little people, and big corporations couldn’t compete in the data sphere.

We were wrong.

What we forgot – or never knew in the first place because we were young and naive – is that technology isn’t the decisive factor in society. Human beings are. And human beings, in aggregate, are ridiculously predictable.

“People can violate the law all they want to on the Internet, because nobody can track them!” we thought. Until the government decided to get serious about it and start tracking people.

“We can say what we want without fear of the government reading it – nobody has the resources to track it back to us!” we thought. Until the NSA proved that they do have the resources to do exactly that.

“Big corporations won’t be able to lock down their data! Data wants to be free!” we thought. Until DRM and the DMCA came about.

“We can say what we want in this big free speech paradise!” we thought. Until SJWs started doxxing people and getting them fired over social media posts.

Technology will not solve the privacy problem because big corporations and big government don’t want you to have any privacy. They want all your data to be easily accessible. Standards like Lessig describes, where corporations discard your data after they’ve made use of it, won’t catch on for the simple fact that they don’t want to discard your data.

If they wanted to, they already could. There’s no reason they have to keep most of it around already. They do it because they want your data. Big government or big corporation, it makes no difference. They want to know everything about you. Big government wants to market to you in every possible way. Big government wants to milk every penny of tax revenue and regulatory compliance they can from you. Neither cares if this is to your benefit or not.

Privacy will not improve until the people who have the power to improve it want to improve it. This is not likely to happen anytime soon.

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