Our right to privacy has been a growing concern as technological advances facilitate its encroachment. Every push on the outward bound of technological limitations carries a slew of negative externalities that are imposed upon citizens of the world.
In the past, such movements in technology’s outwards bound were gradual, allowing for timely regulation and policy changes in pace with technology’s development. Unfortunately, technology’s recent growth has been so rapid that legislation cannot keep pace.
Such a lack of synchronization between technology and legislation has the potential to be catastrophic.
Indeed, the effects of this imbalance are already manifesting themselves. From Lulu, an app that allows girls to rate guys based on past sexual experiences to Google Glass, which can allow users to stalk people in real time, we are witnessing a slew of privacy violations that regulatory policy has failed to appropriately deal with. One could posit that effective regulation is impossible. There may simply exist too many tools for capturing information and photos, and too many channels of distribution to block unlawful dissemination.
A plausible response could be intensive tracking of said dissemination and imposing harsh penalties and criminal charges against violators. In such an attempt, however, there lies a paradox. Oversight of such dissemination is in and of itself a violation of privacy.
With modern technologies requiring us to give up more and more of our privacy we face a choice. Either we protect our privacy at all costs and suffer from the lack of utility that technology provides, or embrace the positive externalities that accompany said technologies in exchange for our privacy. Unfortunately we cannot have both.
Such a decision when based upon cost-benefit analysis can be tricky particularly since the immediate rewards of technology are great while the long-term negative consequences are hard to perceive.
We all love the ability to harness information with such ease and to remain connected in real time with dozens of people we care about. Not as many of us enjoy the ability of our government to watch what we say, and track our location, nor do we have a serous penchant for corporations to use data-mining techniques to practice price discrimination.
Even if we had the foresight to weigh these short-term gains with long-term losses, we are hopelessly unaware of how much privacy we sacrifice when we use certain technologies. For this reason it is crucial that governments and consumer advocacy groups step in to protect us. If not we will lose more than our privacy; we may lose our security as well.