We Don’t Care About Our Privacy Anymore Because We’re Lazy
Posted on Tuesday, January 7 @ 14:20:21 Eastern by Paul_Tamburro
My Xbox One’s Kinect watches me while I sleep. It’s also watched me dry myself off after getting out of the shower and sit on my couch in my boxers. With its white, glowing, circular light and Cylon-esque red dashes across its wide, jet black mouth, the Kinect is a mechanical voyeur I have welcomed into my home and my bedroom. Sitting peacefully atop my TV, it allows me to switch willfully between playing Peggle 2 and watching football. “Xbox, go to Killer Instinct," I tell it, and it does as I say. “Xbox, stop listening," I continue, and again it complies. But does it really? Does the Kinect ever stop listening to me? Does it ever stop watching me?
The NSA (National Security Agency) leaks in 2013, which gave us an insight into just how closely the US government monitors its citizens by revealing that "they" were accessing information from major technology companies without warrants, led the majority of us to look at this technology that we’ve allowed to surround us in a different light. The NSA had also worked in conjunction with other security agencies throughout the western world, including Britain’s GCHQ and Canada’s CSEC, meaning that this operation had gone almost global. As the rabbit hole dug by Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who leaked these confidential documents, went deeper and deeper, many began asking questions not just of the government, but of the tools they used in order to carry out these infiltrations of our private lives. [I can haz Fourth Amendment? ~Ed. Nick]
But the real kicker was that despite the government relentlessly encroaching upon our personal freedoms, the majority of us turned a blind eye to their actions. Yes, we complained in comments sections and the like, but how many of us decided that ensuring our privacy was worth ridding our lives of a few of these black screens that we carry in our pockets and allow into our homes? Very few, I’d wager. Edward Snowden even delivered an “Alternative Christmas Message” over here in the UK, where he attempted to hammer home the discomfiting thought that we should all remain wary of our mobile phones, our Facebook accounts, our Xbox Ones, and anything else which has us parting with our personal information and identity to a machine. Unfortunately, the society we live in makes it much easier to comply rather than rebel, and so after watching this message I bellowed, “Xbox, go to Forza Motorsport 5” at my TV and continued with my afternoon.
I should make it clear that Microsoft has signed the ‘Global Government Surveillance Reform’ alongside Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter, and has spoken out against the government’s spying. However, they have done this in the awake of the PR shit-storm they endured last year, when they came under much scrutiny after it came to the public’s attention that they had passed over a vast amount of its users’ information at the request of the NSA. In fact, after Microsoft purchased Skype, documents leaked by Snowden to The Guardian indicated that the NSA had bragged that they had tripled the amount of Skype video calls they had access to. When it was revealed that the NSA was able to monitor communications on Xbox Live, Microsoft released a statement saying: "We're not aware of any surveillance activity. If it has occurred as reported, it certainly wasn't done with our consent." Very reassuring...
So with there being no real definitive answer regarding whether or not the likes of the NSA and the GCHQ will still monitor citizens using Xbox Live and Skype, regardless of whether or not Microsoft actively condones it or is even aware of it happening, why do many of us still not seem to care about that camera sitting atop our TV? Why are we not concerned that it is watching us while we drape our arm around our significant other in front of a romantic comedy, or laugh along to Yo Gabba Gabba with our kids, or sit alone eating pizza whilst replaying Frodo’s journey to dispose of the One Ring? Why did I, despite acknowledging that in a post-Snowden world the concept of a camera in my bedroom should be unacceptable, choose not to throw my Kinect out of my window the second it automatically signed me in to Xbox Live using its creepy facial recognition technology?
The truth is that I no longer value my privacy. I realize that I should, but how can I sincerely say that I do when the average UK citizen is captured on CCTV surveillance cameras 70 times per day? When I discovered the extent of the NSA’s snooping I was appalled, but not surprised. During my ascent to adulthood I have borne witness to my generation’s continued ambivalence towards its online security. We’ve tapped our personal information into Facebook and have then allowed that information to be accessed by apps, games, and other websites. We’ve handed over our phone number, email address, house number, and zip/post codes at the drop of a hat. We’ve even watched as the PlayStation Network was hacked, resulting in approximately 77 million accounts being stolen and personal information (including passwords and credit card details) being compromised, and have then gone on to accept Sony’s offering of a few free games before renewing our PS Plus accounts.
I’m not saying that we were wrong to do any of these things—shunning the advancement of technology in the 21st century is akin to wearing a tin foil hat, and there is no quicker way to alienate yourself from society than to refuse to join in with its continued celebration of gadgetry—but I am pointing out that us submitting our personal and “private” details so willingly to the faceless corporations hiding behind the Wizard of Oz-esque curtain that is the internet is an act of lazy compliance, no matter how much we tell ourselves that these shiny things we welcome into our homes and our pockets are harmless.
The fact of the matter is that when we read these horror stories concerning the government rifling through the knicker drawers of its citizens or hackers pilfering the wallets of some poor shmucks, we never think that these invasions of privacy could happen to us. The blanket anonymity the internet provides ensures that we never really see the effects of this spying/hacking. We read news reports regarding it, complain about it over our morning coffee, and then carry on with our lives. What we don’t know won’t harm us, and unless one day a image of us playing Zoo Tycoon naked winds up on 4chan, we’ll continue surrounding ourselves with black screens.