Since I’m taking cyber security classes for my degree, the topic of privacy always comes up and I had a burning question about it: “Is privacy more important to minority groups than privileged groups?
Yes! Absolutely, a hundred times yes.
“Depending on where you live, your socioeconomic status and your race, maybe you’re less worried about the police, but there are plenty of law-abiding African-Americans and Latino-Americans who have good reason to be worried…”
–Christopher Soghoian (principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union)
Mr. Soghoian did an interview (which you can view here) about why privacy online matters and it gave me the exact answers I was looking for. To understand what I mean about privacy you have to consider the kind of information you don’t want shared with just anyone. If you were to type your information into a Google search right now -Your full name, city, and birthday- think about the kind of information you don’t want to pop up. You might not be worried about the police or government having that information, but what about your boss, your school or your parents?
I don’t want the first thing people know about me to be is my sexual orientation or gender identity. I want to be the person in control about who knows that information so it’s not something I’m going to put on a public profile. Other things people in general don’t want to pop up in a search are medical records. I’m sure everyone remembers when the AshleyMadison “cheating website” got hacked and leaked, but many medical providers are switching over to digital. How secure is that information? Will that security hold up in two or three years? It’s not just local hackers we have to worry about either. When the US Office of Personal Management (OPM) got hacked, it was done internationally. Since I had applied through USAJobs before, that information (including my personal work history) had been compromised.
What if a support-group type website got hacked? What if the first thing that popped up on your self-Google search was a medical condition or mental illness? What if a vengeful ex put intimate photos of you up where everyone could see including future employers? When you turn in a job resume you’re not supposed to attach a picture because of potential bias, but what’s the point if an employer is just going to look you up on Facebook? There are some serious privacy concerns that we need to consider.
National Geographic’s Through the Wormhole did an episode on privacy as well titled “Is Privacy Dead” and I was less than impressed with some of the guest experts. They made the argument that privacy was becoming unnecessary or that people could adapt to a life without privacy. It was actually this episode that got me thinking about the question of privacy and minorities because the experts who were making the claim that privacy was passe were all white cis-men.
Sure, there’s a select few people who really don’t have anything to hide, but as Christopher Soghoia pointed out, “…there are plenty of other people who do have things to hide and we shouldn’t flush privacy down the toilet because a few people are privileged enough to have nothing to worry about.”
In my opinion privacy serves as protection against judgment and prejudice. Until we can walk freely without judgment and until there exist no prejudices we cannot give up the people’s right to privacy and I believe privacy is an especially important issue for minorities.