It is the time of the year that Americans celebrate the independence of the United States in the form of fireworks, BBQs and friends and family. One word that comes to mind when the 4th of July rolls around is freedom. Freedom means a lot of different things to different people and we want you to think about what it means in relation to privacy. Are freedom and privacy two opposing factors or do they work in correlation to make life better for all of us?
What is privacy? According to Merriam Webster, the definition of privacy is “the quality or state of being apart from company or observation.” Freedom is defined as “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” So what do these two ideals have in common? The most important relationship that we can identify when looking at the seemingly abstruse concepts is that you need one to have other. There must be a balance where there is enough transparency to ensure people’s rights while retaining a level of privacy that ensures people are free to live uninhibited by constant observation.
What does all of this have to do with information security, identity theft or VPNs? Our lives are increasingly digital in nature and activities that used to take place outside of the virtual world are moving into the sphere of cyberspace. Our mail is now email, our family photos are now Facebook albums. We live our lives online and the amount of information someone can gather about us is immeasurable. Most times, this doesn’t matter much to our privacy mainly because we choose to share this information.
But what about when the information is gathered for nefarious purposes? The information we have shared to connect us to our loved ones then turns into a tool which can be used to manipulate or victimize us which is a form of taking our freedom away. Is all information gathered on us without our knowledge harmful? The answer is no. However, can that information be harmful if used in the improper way? The answer is yes. So again, it is a balance that we must continue to assess each and every day.
At the end of the day, both privacy and freedom are rights that must be fostered to ensure that they remain available to everyone. These are two of the rights we celebrate as we celebrate our day of independence. So as you gather this holiday with friends and family, after the hotdogs have been devoured and the last firework has exploded, think about what privacy and freedom mean to you. Look at it this way, it means that you have the freedom to eat that hotdog and the right to privacy so that no one ever has to know that you did.