I have heard people use every kind of wording – from offhand quip to nine-part rococo longread – to say “we’ve all given up our privacy and nobody cares.” It’s the worst kind of knee-jerk cynicism, especially because it’s probably untrue.
Yesterday in the New York Times, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden wrote about how much has changed in the two years since he revealed the extent of the US government’s surveillance programs. Snowden, who has become one of the most famous men in the world because NO ONE CARES about privacy and surveillance, wrote:
In a single month, the N.S.A.’s invasive call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress. After a White House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticized its disclosure has now ordered it terminated.
This is the power of an informed public.
Ending the mass surveillance of private phone calls under the Patriot Act is a historic victory for the rights of every citizen, but it is only the latest product of a change in global awareness. Since 2013, institutions across Europe have ruled similar laws and operations illegal and imposed new restrictions on future activities. The United Nations declared mass surveillance an unambiguous violation of human rights. In Latin America, the efforts of citizens in Brazil led to the Marco Civil, an Internet Bill of Rights. Recognizing the critical role of informed citizens in correcting the excesses of government, the Council of Europe called for new laws to protect whistle-blowers.
He also notes that there’s been a technological reaction too, with companies from Apple to Google insisting on encryption for users to protect them from prying eyes. That’s right – even consumer products are becoming privacy-conscious.
The point is, shit has changed, and it’s still changing. And that’s because people actually care a lot about protecting their privacy. It freaks them out that they are under surveillance. And they want to stop it.