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Accepting privacy invasions means Big Brother is always watching

When it comes to privacy and privacy invasions, we are our own worst enemies — so what are we supposed to do!?

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Yes, I agree

Who actually reads the privacy and term of service agreements when signing up with a service? No one.

If you do, a) congrats and b) face it, you’ve probably skipped at least one throughout the course of your internet life. #sorrynotsorry

We are the problem

Collectively, society is continuing to be part of the problem, and this is going to come back and bite us. Hard. If you’ve been paying attention to the Sonos speaker debacle–“if you don’t accept our continued privacy invasions, no more Beyonce karaoke nights using our speaker!”–it’s an important test case of what we as citizens continue to give up in exchange for ease of access to a good or service.

Face it: the inherent concept of the internet is a risky venture unless you’ve built yourself a server fortress that is akin to Fort Knox.

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But every day, the privacy in certain areas you once enjoyed is slowly being eroded. When I read a book on my Kindle, Amazon knows what I am reading. When I wear my FitBit, it knows when I sleep, what I eat, and where I go–always. When I use my Google Home, it listens into my conversations to know when to jump into offer its help. Using any of these types of services comes with risk involved, and you’re trading your former security as part of the transaction.

To each their own

The funny thing about risk is that everyone perceives it differently. Risks and hazards elicit images, which evoke positive, negative, and neutral feelings. People draw on these feelings when making decisions about risk in a phenomenon known as the social amplification of risk. After a risk event occurs, information flows through media, interpersonal networks, and framing narratives to influence public perception.

This can dampen risk signals or amplify risk signals after it is interpreted by the individual through their existing personal narrative.

Social amplification of risk can be a good thing–that is, if it works. The problem is, as demonstrated from my laundry list of services I use that can invade my privacy, we’ve all bought into this exchange to some extent. Our existing personal narratives say things like “well, that’s the way it has to be, I guess” and we accept it, forget, and move on, like how we all forgot that the Facebook app can listen to anything we say at any given time. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When multiple users took to Reddit to complain about Plex, a media streaming service, threatening lack of access if its new privacy violations were not accepted, the company reversed course. Blind acceptance of a service’s continued violation of your personal privacy does not have to be the default.

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Cost of privacy

Whenever you use the internet and any services powered through private companies, you will have to pay some price that may not be money. Without keeping that in mind, you’re ensuring that Big Brother will always be watching and listening to you and those you love.

Take two minutes, read the user agreement, try to understand the privacy terms. If those aren’t acceptable to you, let the service provider know and discontinue use until they fix it. It may not be convenient when you’re trying to sing “Single Ladies” at 2 AM at your party, but I assure you, you’ll be a lot better off in the long run–and society will too.

Alexandra Bohannon has a Master of Public Administration degree from University of Oklahoma with a concentration in public policy. She is currently based in Oklahoma City, working as a freelance filmmaker, writer, and podcaster. Alexandra loves playing Dungeons and Dragons and is a diehard Trekkie.

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