Lack of privacy

Nathan Smith
Insights newsletter
10 July, 2020

I don’t know why people are getting so worked up about private details being leaked to MPs. If the Covid-19 crisis taught us anything, it’s that privacy has no place in the “new normal.”

The mantra of the internet is that information “wants” to be free, as if data itself has agency. It’s a strange concept at first, but over time the trend line seems to be bending towards every keystroke we’ve ever made being exposed on a computer server at some point.

If you just ask someone nicely, they’ll probably tell you their name and address, and most of us upload our intimate details on Facebook daily – in fact, Kiwis have even been willingly handing over their private info to the local burger joint to help track Covid-19.

And yet, through a strange form of alchemy, when that same data is collected by officials it magically becomes “sensitive.”

Look, I get that releasing a private list of medical patients sounds like a bad idea. And I understand why anyone who would leak such a list should be asked to resign. But this is no way to run a post-Covid society!

Can’t we be more progressive about privacy? After all, the Covid-19 problem was made much worse precisely because people’s information was too private. We need to rethink this to save our politicians from having to make tough choices and to foil new outbreaks before they, well, break out. Privacy is as bad as Covid-19. There, I said it.

I know some people who cover their laptop webcams with blurry sticky-tape to stop hackers from peering in. But what if they have a runny nose? Wouldn’t it be better for society if a webcam could take a snapshot and post it straight to a public Twitter account so caring colleagues or neighbours can offer the ill person a box of tissues or avoid being in the same elevator?

The police now have powers to enter a property without a warrant. But how can we expect the police to protect us from new viruses if citizens keep favouring privacy over social wellness? Private information is so 2019…

New Zealand is supposed to be a “team of five million,” right? Well, I can’t help the community if others are being selfish with their personal information. Right now, we’re sounding schizophrenic about private information. So let’s just delete “privacy” from the dictionary and let data be free.

If you agree, send a message to my Twitter account: @anonymous12345

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