2006-01-21 1421 Opinion: == Show me the way to Armadillo == This post has nothing to do with Tony Christie, or . . .

Show me the way to Armadillo

This post has nothing to do with Tony Christie, or armadillos, but it does mean you’ll have THAT SONG running through your head for the next few hours. If the suicide rate goes up today, blame me.

I’ve been thinking about online privacy, and why it doesn’t matter. Yes, you heard right. Online privacy isn’t worth a jot. Not one iota. Not compared to the debacle that is offline privacy, anyway.

I’m going to make up a statistic on the spot here, but bear with me: 95% of people don’t use the internet on a regular basis. I challenge you to disprove it too. Add up all the people in Africa, China, Bradford and other under-developed areas, total up the sum of all people aged over 45 who Fear the ‘Puter. Drop into the pot (not literally) all the under-threes who don’t have genius-class brains (or pushy parents. Delete where applicable) and mix in the People With a Social Life for whom the ‘net is something that’s used occassionally. Yes, they do exist.

This leaves us. The minority. The 5%. The bloggers, techies, ‘net junkies and geeks. That’s good. We are special. We’re the info-warriors in the age when information is supposed to matter, but mis-information is what drives governments and starts wars.

But even for us, online privacy shouldn’t be all that important an issue. You see, it’s my choice which search engine to use, or whether to use the Internet at all for that matter. It’s up to me what I type. Just for a laugh I could enter “Bin Laden plans to bomb Tom Cruise” into yahoo. I did, and this was the first hit. A blog. Quel surprise :)

Online, people can write what they want. They can obfuscate and downright lie. The internet is randomness incarnate, search results doubly so. I wouldn’t trust search engine statistics as a measure of terror levels or proof of paedophilia/necrophilia/gorgonzilia for a second. Do that and you’ll end up thinking that what everyone wants is for Christina Aguilera to give them a blowjob wearing nothing but an ipod.

And I’ve already said, that’s only true for 5% of us. At most. Ahem.

But offline privacy, that’s a different matter entirely.

Here’s the thing. Think back to the last shopping trip you made in any town with a population of larger than 20k. Make a guess at how many times during that one trip you were photographed, filmed or reocrded in some way. Think how many times you left information that is traceable back to you. All those purchases, that trip to the cash machine (I love that here in the UK, ATMs are called ‘cash machines’. Like they make the stuff), those roadside cameras storing your car registration.

Here in the UK we have the highest concentration of CCTV cameras of any nation per head of population. They are unregulated, unlicensed, uncontrolled. They do very little to stop crime but everything to restrict freedom. CCTV didn’t stop 911. It didn’t stop the London bombings, but it did make for sensational newspaper coverage serving to spread yet more fear and panic through and already government-terrorised population.

It’s impossible not to be recorded, somewhere, somehow in an urban area. Online we can hide. Offline you can’t. This matters. I want freedom, not to be treated like a terrorist or shoplifter. I want to be respected not distrusted. End the distrust between people and you end terrorism without a single bullet being fired. It really is that simple.

This should matter to 100% of us, not to just 5%. It affects us all, everywhere.

I’d be paranoid if it wasn’t the truth.

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