An extended quote on the value of data from The Register UK that’s worth repeating:
As technologists, we must stop looking at user data as one more thing to monopolise and monetise; we need to treat data as sacrosanct.
We, as users, must not allow our data to be used to lock us into “solutions”, or be mined by corporations or governments. It’s easy to understand the importance of securing data when we talk about passwords, but other forms of data are equally important. A journalist’s contact list being mined could endanger their sources. As much as we hate to acknowledge it, revealing an illness or even an ethnicity that someone has kept carefully hidden could end up costing them their livelihood – or in some locales, even their lives.
Our data is no longer entirely under our control. As users we must examine every link in the chain of custody and ask ourselves “who could potentially gain access to our data and how?” We must demand steps be taken to ensure that nobody but us should ever have access to our data for any reason unless we explicitly allow it.
We need to demand this of the companies that create our applications. We must demand this of our governments and even the companies we work for. The alternative is a world without secrets; a world where one mistake – no matter how minor – can haunt us for a lifetime.
Humans are not particularly forgiving. We are cliquish and tribal, we seek constantly not to include others but instead to find reasons to exclude them. Our history is littered with discrimination based on every conceivable factor of our existence. This has manifested in everything from light heckling to segregation, slavery, torture and genocide.
It is easy to look at the more awful and extreme end of that spectrum and say that this is something that happened only in humanity’s barbaric past, or in far-off places. We can abstract away the horrors of Darfur and Burma by telling ourselves that the people involved are somehow less than us – different, less civilised. How many are aware of the irony of the selfsame thought, one that creates an “us” and a “them” based on what would be nothing more than data in a spreadsheet: Country of Origin?
We cannot even grant our governments powers to invade privacy without their immediate and blatant misuse. Powers created strictly to protect national security and deal with the very real threat of terrorism are used to spy on people putting out too many bags of garbage for collection.
What I mean is this — many who claim to love Jesus with their theology hate the poor with their economics, and I think we should stop being okay with that. I frankly think we should knock it off — the gospel is not some airy fairy thing that fails to apply to how people have to live out their actual lives. When Jesus taught us to feed the poor, instead of turning their place of habitation into a desolation, this necessarily excludes every form of Keynesianism. Now I also admit that the previous paragraph has a case of the cutes, but I also want to maintain — in deadly earnest — that leftism of every stripe is a poisonous and lying cheat. This being the case, it does not matter how many vibrant Christians, conservative in their theology, sign on board. How many robust Christians would have to believe in it before water would start flowing uphill? -Blog and Mablog
Which is more destructive, caring without truth, or truth without caring? We are often asked: “Why does it matter what you believe if you don’t care?” The point of the question is Christians should be fighting to get the government to care for the poor, because we aren’t big enough as individuals, churches, and companies.
Let me ask something in return: Why does it matter how much you care if you’re not actually applying the truth in your individual life? Can you pay government workers to care in your stead?
When it came to Boston, it wasn’t just that this vast, intrusive spying program didn’t capture the planned attack. That the system missed the actual terrorist attack makes sense because the actors were able to communicate the old-fashioned way, by talking to each other face-to-face. It was that the same government that feels entitled to spy on our every phone call and keystroke, completely missed the fact that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had massive terrorist connections. He was waving red flags everywhere and our government gave him welfare instead of the boot. The NSA thinks that it can bring some scientific algorithm to bear on the problem. Get the right algorithm and then capture enough data and then — voila! — perpetual security. But that’s not how it works. When a system places too much reliance on non-human factors, it effectively blinds itself to the randomness of humanity. Add to that the fact that our government, in thrall to political correctness, deliberately refuses to look at known indicators for terrorism, and you have a system that’s definitely intrusive, that’s questionably effective, and that sucks resources away from the human intelligence and real-world (as opposed to politically-correct-world) knowledge that must drive all security programs. -Bookworm Room
In the world of engineering we have the concept of brittleness — something that is so hard it is inflexible, and hence easy to break. This is one of the many problems our “overengineered” world faces. From social engineering (we can nudge people to eat healthier) to security (if we can only sweep up every piece of data in the world we can produce perfect protection against terrorist attacks), brittleness rules the day.
Our modern police state is offering us 100% protection if we’re just willing to give up 100% of our privacy. Our modern information based economy is offering us 100% convenience if we’ll just give up 100% of our privacy.
Both will ultimately fail, because perfect security and convenience are impossible in a fallen world. We’ll end up losing our privacy for stack of fools gold at the end of the day.
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