Privacy lost can never be regained

Recent events have reminded us that privacy lost cannot be regained. After the hacks of the Democratic party, with the GDPR coming up as one of the biggest challenges in our industry privacy has become a hot topic. The surveillance society keeps gaining momentum. Both little brother and big brother watch us. Whatever we want to or not, information about us is gathered, stored, analyzed and acted upon by third party actors.

Privacy has become a precious commodity. If you are rich enough you can move to an off grid island. If you are famous enough, you can get permission to build a higher wall around your property. The rest of us have to learn to live with an ever decreasing level of privacy.


A screen shot of Google warning me about trafficSource: Owned by the author

Google warned me about traffic – after I started.

We are learning to live in a society based on panopticism. There are advantages. Bad behaviour becomes less prevalent when the opportunities for repudiation become fewer. Sometimes, nudges and prompts from all this data can prevent us from getting stuck in a snowstorm.

Some of us cope by sharing us much as possible about ourselves. That way we can control the impression that others get of us online. Others try to be as hidden as possible. They refuse to use social media. They use a phone with an unlisted number.

There is some data that we cannot hide. Government agencies and corporations gather data about us in every interaction we have with them. Despite their best efforts to protect the data with legislation, policies and technical measures even the best of them leak data. Your info will be sold without your consent.

Privacy lost makes us open to hackers

TarGuess showed us that publicly available information about us makes us wide open for hackers. In the panopticon, there are no shared secrets to protect us. We will need new ways to protect ourselves from identity theft and financial fraud. (How many times have you been hacked this year?)

I used to say that we could counter a decrease in privacy with an increase in tolerance. Sure, better passwords are more secure against social attacks like TarGuess. Privacy is a human right. Laws like the GDPR are there to protect it. But once lost, privacy can neither be regained nor relied upon. While you think about our new lives in the spotlight, please also consider Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Inside one of the prison buildings at Presidio Modelo, Isla de la Juventud, Cuba - no privacy lost hereSource: Friman via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY SA 3.0

In the panopticon society there is no privacy. We are always being watched by the powers that be.


This post is a response to Casimir Artmann‘s post “Privacy as a valuable asset

Image sources

About Greger Wikstrand

Greger Wikstrand, Ph.D. M.Sc. is a TOGAF 9 certified enterprise architect with an interest in e-heatlh, m-health and all things agile as well as processes, methods and tools. Greger Wikstrand works as a consultant at Capgemini where he alternates between enterprise agile coaching, problem solving and designing large scale e-health services ...


    • The leaks never stop. It used to be “only a privacy” problem. Now it is also a security problem.

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