Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I went to a debate once, in which the former head of GCHQ (British equivalent of the NSA) argued that because agents weren't literally listening to people's phone calls, like the Stazi did, mass digital surveillance is fine. And unfortunately for many people this argument works. Human eavesdropping is obviously a problem at a viceral level, because somebody you don't know listening to you is frightening. The fact that digital surveillance gives power to its possessor just as much as human surveillance did is hard to get across.

Privacy is about control and power over your own existence and choices—just that its impact is usually long-term and most profound on a societal level but it starts at the most trivial aspects of life, like being able to sleep in safe, quiet place without any fear. So if data aggregation about you is automated, you still lose that control.

When an employer, for instance, is able to request data aggregation services for a break down about your entire life without or with forced consent from you, or able to monitor and analyze every step of yours during working hours, it's dehumanizing.

Similarly, it doesn't matter whether those with access to data regarding you have only good intentions. It may be pleasing to have a store know everything you like and need right in the moment, you still should be able to walk in and out (pseudo-)anonymously when you wish to.

Same with the state. We say not to talk to the police. In trials the determination what evidence can be submitted is always an important step. So why should the police, prosecution, intelligence agencies, or any other entity be able to access or collect data about you and evaluate it without due process?

This is hilariously cynical because GCHQ and the other letter agencies have had automated listening, recording, and analysis systems in place for decades.


Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact