Privacy Absolutism

Dec. 17, 2020 [technology] [privacy-security]

One rhetoric which often makes its way to the forefront of privacy discussions online is that which states “The only way out is to just move out to the woods and live in a cabin off grid!”. I think that this is shortsighted, unprincipled and generally seeks to preserve the justifications made by the its proponents toward their own usage of various centralized disservices. It is a way for them to distance themselves from having to take responsibility for securing their own computing.

They will go on to argue that a myriad of individual countermeasures “Will never work against an alphabet agency because if they want you, they’ll get you!”. Not only does this frame the argument as though most users will somehow have the same threat model as Edward Snowden (most don’t), but it also paints the issue not as a gradient and instead as a binary in which the switch is either 100% on or 100% off.

Digital privacy is analogous to designing a stealth jet. It is always going to have some radar signature no matter how many measures are implemented. At best, one can only reduce this signature and so the goal becomes to make it as small as possible. If a nation were to follow the absolutist logic concerning their aircraft inventory, it would have no stealth jets at all because “There’s just no point, so why bother trying?”.