Via Wired, Jathan Sadowski writes that “tech hacks” to shield our own privacy shouldn’t be the answer we are looking for:
The notion of tech-centric solutionism: what tech hack, device, or app can I turn to for a quick fix to my privacy troubles? There’s no shortage of articles and how-to guides for securing privacy, with headlines promising “Five ways to stop the NSA from spying on you.”
Here’s the thing, though: We shouldn’t resolve ourselves to a life where cyber-hygiene and an obsession with technological solutions fools us into thinking we’ve somehow preserved our privacy.
It’s always going to be a losing battle when going against a panoptic titan whose methods are wide-reaching, constantly evolving, and classified. Just look at the fates of Lavabit and Silent Circle, the two email services that shuttered last week.
The fundamental belief in technology’s ability to “fix” everything ignores the fact that not everything needs to be fixed in the first place. And it gives birth to questions such as what if Trayvon Martin wore Google Glass? Sure, technology could help — but such questions (and answers!) miss the larger social and cultural context that needs to be addressed here.
In fact, taking the tech-centric route can lead to even more severe, unintended consequences. There’s a feedback loop between solutionist tendencies and the growth of a surveillance state: The rapid spread and use of technologies ironically laid the very foundation for it to engulf more and more aspects of our lives.
Except for the most cybersecurity-savvy among us, trying to outsmart and outrun the government’s data-hungry tendrils will only leave people ensnared. This is especially true when it comes to those who do not have the privilege — knowledge, ability, or wealth — to protect their privacy.
For many, the actions necessary to set up encryption or even abandon certain services are not feasible. Privacy should not become a luxury for an elite tech-savvy few; it matters far too much.
Preserving democratic freedoms and fighting the government’s spy-machine will mean focusing and turning concern into actionable change. It will require “coordinated dissent” from individuals, advocacy groups, and, yes, technology companies.