In this modern, digitized world, privacy is arguably more important than ever. It has value, far more than most may realize, and we wear and share our private information every single day through our smart phones and computers. The inherent value of information is easily proven by how society as a whole utilizes information as a commodity, exchanging it for goods and services all the time, whether it’d be “free” public WiFi, a store discount, or even access to “free” social media like Facebook. I put quotes around “free” because it is not free. Monetarily, strictly in fiat such as USD, YEN, or EUR — yes, it’s free, but in reality you are paying with your information.
What if I told you that the information you are giving away is worth far more than you’re getting in return? That Facebook is making more off of your information than you are getting value in return from Auntie Jasmine’s 5th post about her dear cat Mr. Snuffles this week?
Well, I just told you. Now what?
Take Control, Dammit!
The very first step you need to take is to protect your information. Take control of it, not letting the vultures that are ad-centric businesses — *cough cough* Facebook *cough cough* — get it without compensating you. No, Jasmine, I don’t think Mr. Snuffles is cute enough to warrant Facebook selling me off to advertisers trying to get even more value from me.
Now, you might ask: “How do I take control?” Well, let me tell you. This wouldn’t be a good article if I preached without presenting a solution. The solution, at least for me personally, is Brave. It’s a browser with native built-in ad-blocker, keeping those pesky advertisers from yet again trying to sell you a car that you don’t need nor want. I don’t need a brand new car, Volkswagen; I’m fine thanks.
The Switch to Brave
Changing to Brave has been quite the positive influence in my life this past week. I’ve blocked thousands of ads, hundreds of trackers, and I’ve saved 17 minutes that would have been otherwise spent loading ads — yes, you’ll even save time whilst protecting your personal information.
You see, Brave manages to make your browsing up to 8x faster on popular news media sites like the New York Times by just removing the ad component of loading their sites. I wonder, is this reflective of the abundance of trackers, ads, and more on mainstream sites? Sorry, I lied. That wasn’t a question, but a statement. Yes, it is reflective of that fact.
There might be a final hurdle for you. “All my stuff is on Chrome and I can’t be bothered to move it over.” First of all, you’re lazy, but that’s fine — laziness was my first reaction too when I was initially recommended the browser. What I discovered when I finally got around to installing, however, is that you can simply import all your browsing data and more from any browser with 2 clicks, and what’s more is that the import is a part of the setup process for the Brave Browser. Did I win you over? I hope so. Make the move, be brave.
(I accept complete responsibility for my terrible pun and I fully expect the pun police to read me my Miranda rights within the week’s end.)
If I still can’t convince you, I’d recommend ClearCoin’s browser extension. It’s an alternative for those who won’t move from Chrome, letting you earn crypto for watching ads in about the same way as Brave, and also allowing you to turn ads off when you need to get things done.
“Why Should I Care?”
This is something I’ve heard several times before, and you’ve also likely heard variations of it before in similar contexts. It’s a question that is reverberated across countries, ages, and social classes. It’s in fact so common that it has almost become fact, and that’s dangerous. The question is often played in two different ways, or contexts; one is tied to government spying, overstepping, and other related activities — and the other is tied to companies and more misappropriating and undervaluing personal information. Wasn’t Facebook, Marriott International, and similar large companies’ scandals proof enough that private information is not best trusted in the hands of strangers with a profit incentive far misaligned with your own incentives?
Governments and Privacy
In regards to government spying and overstepping, you’ve probably heard the famous saying “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” It is simply wrong, both factually and morally. I think Snowden puts it best:
The “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” argument doesn’t make sense. Privacy is, in fact, the fountainhead of rights, from which other freedoms flow. Privacy isn’t about something to hide. Privacy is about something to protect. That’s who you are. Privacy is baked into our language, our core concepts of government and self in every way. It’s why we call it ‘private property.’ Without privacy you don’t have anything for yourself.
— Edward Snowden, (
Snowden is completely correct. In my mind, by not fighting for privacy and freedom of speech, you are giving in to oppression, or at least the potentiality of oppression. If that which is you can be misrepresented and fabricated, then we truly have an Orwellian future ahead of us.
Ad-Centric Businesses and Private Information
When it comes to businesses and private information, the overall question changes a bit. It’s no longer necessarily about privacy, but the value of private information. The immediate value of personal information is perhaps not so visible, yet the value remains. The argument “it’s not like I’m using it for anything else” is wrong — don’t undervalue yourself. When you’re not “using it”, and you’re effectively giving it away, you’re allowing it to be used against you. And no, I’m not talking about getting blackmailed with compromising browser history. I’m talking about getting manipulated into buying products and services from companies that had absolutely no business knowing your personal preferences, perhaps compiled and sold to them by an entity like Facebook without you even having an account there.
Am I being unfair to Facebook by having an elevated level of scrutiny aimed at them? Perhaps, but the lack of transparency from these entities fuel that scrutiny, and the fact that I simply do not know who has my information, or has had my information, nor what they know about me — is scary to me. Is it scary to you? If it is, then the solution can be simple. Block their trackers, and protest against their ads. Again, Brave can help you do just that.
Privacy is a right, not a privilege. Personal information is valuable, not to be discarded or traded for a cup of coffee. Protect your value and share it sparingly, and if you do, in exchange for appropriate compensation.