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Privacy Is Power

Why and How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data

By Carissa Véliz
13-minute read
Audio available
Privacy Is Power by Carissa Véliz

Privacy is Power (2020) is a shocking exposé of the inner workings of surveillance capitalism. It reveals how, every day, hundreds of interested parties are violating your privacy and capitalizing on your personal data. Corporations, governments, and criminals alike are all busy collecting and exploiting your data in an effort to influence the way you think and behave. In these blinks, you’ll learn why your privacy is so important and what you can do to protect it.

  • Those perturbed by governments and corporations snooping on our private lives
  • People untroubled by digital surveillance because they believe they have nothing to hide
  • Anyone looking for actionable ways to protect their privacy now

Philosopher Carissa Véliz is an associate professor at the Institute for Ethics in AI at the University of Oxford. Her research interests lie in the areas of privacy, technology, political philosophy, and public policy. She’s been published in numerous major publications, including the Guardian and the New York Times, and she’s also the editor of the Oxford Handbook of Digital Ethics.

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Privacy Is Power

Why and How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data

By Carissa Véliz
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Privacy Is Power by Carissa Véliz
Synopsis

Privacy is Power (2020) is a shocking exposé of the inner workings of surveillance capitalism. It reveals how, every day, hundreds of interested parties are violating your privacy and capitalizing on your personal data. Corporations, governments, and criminals alike are all busy collecting and exploiting your data in an effort to influence the way you think and behave. In these blinks, you’ll learn why your privacy is so important and what you can do to protect it.

Key idea 1 of 8

You’re being watched everywhere you go, at every moment of the day.

You’re probably already aware that you’re being spied on. Maybe you’ve talked about something very specific one day – say, a green sponge – and then were served an advertisement for a green sponge shortly after.

Or, perhaps you’ve heard a story about Amazon’s Alexa recording people’s private conversations and sending them to random people on their contact list.

These are a couple of the visible symptoms of corporate surveillance, and they’re unsettling enough. But are you aware of how deep the privacy violations go? Let’s find out by walking through a normal day under surveillance capitalism.

The key message here is: You’re being watched everywhere you go, at every moment of the day.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? You check your phone, right?

The moment you turn on your phone, you notify a host of institutions, including your phone’s manufacturer, your service provider, and all the companies whose apps you’ve downloaded, that you’re now awake. They also know where you woke up, and who you woke up next to.

If you were wearing a smartwatch during the night, you were actually being monitored even before you woke up. Your watch was keeping track of your movements and heart rate while you slept, as well as any sexual activity you might have had.

Let’s say that, after you get up, you like to eat breakfast in front of the TV. If you have a smart TV, then it’s collecting data on your watching habits, and passing it along to the manufacturer and other interested third parties. Researchers found that one Samsung TV had communicated with over 700 internet addresses after being switched on for only 15 minutes.

And it’s not just your TV. Pretty much anything that connects to the internet is collecting data on you. Your games console, your e-book, and even your smart teakettle are all double agents in your own home.

After your morning routine is complete, you get in your car to go to work. On the way – no surprises here – your car is busy gathering data. It’s keeping track of everything from the places you visit, to your weight, to your eye movements, and even the kind of music you like to listen to.

Once you arrive at work, you log on to your computer and check your emails. You might not think twice about opening an email, but did you know that about 40 percent of them contain trackers? By opening the email, you allow third parties to identify you and track your activity across the internet.

Ubiquitous surveillance has become a fact of twenty-first-century life. It’s nearly – but not entirely – impossible to avoid.

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