Privacy: Your Consent Is Not Needed

2019-02-13T11:20:41.000Z Honest Cash

Some time ago I've read that privacy is a matter of consent.

privacy is about consent    -- someone, the internet

It made me think. Yeah, it makes sense. If you don't give your consent to share certain information, and someone does it, then that's a violation of your privacy. And most services ask your consent, through privacy policies or the service's terms and agreements, which seem to recognize that privacy is about consent.

But that wasn't the end of that wandering thought. Something was missing. Consent certainly covers part of it because when you give your consent your already acknowledge that privacy leak. But it doesn's seem general enough as, in my opinion, privacy is a matter or controlling information.

Information technology

Technology made the world a smaller place by making global travel accessible and global communication commonplace. On the one side, we're able to talk with anyone almost anywhere in the world. On the other hand, that comes with the realization that technology, specially communication technology, makes us more exposed.

We form a crude mental picture of how computers, phones, the Internet works and move on with our business. Until we're suprised by a leak. As always, surprise is there to guide us through the world. We leak information in everything we do and our sense of privacy can be violated in the most surprising ways. Big Brother, for example, knows when a woman is pregnant, just from leaked information, weeks before her friends.

The ability to conceal

So I think privacy is mostly about the ability to conceal information from observers. Information truly wants to be free and our ability to keep information private is compromised at the very moment it is produced. Once produced, it can be captured, reproduced, and made public. So, in general, consent is meaningless. We actually depend a lot on others to keep our privacy because we lack the ability to stop them. We may use "consent" as our desire to retain the ability to prevent leaks, but we actually cannot stop a secret from being retold.

Even if we create barriers to mark our private sphere, as we always do, it always has breaches, specially in the age of information. Our lack of understanding about how things work and lack of ability to conceal private matters is what creates this sense of exposure.


With changing technology there's always a gap between what we think we are able to conceal and what we are actually able to conceal. We also cannot tell for sure if some aspect of our private lives was captured until it's public. And in many situations we depend on others to protect our privacy. So essentially, the violation of our privacy is a matter of expectations. Consent is just playing nice.

privacy is about expectations    -- m4ktub, the internet, misattributed

We create a model of how the world works and expect that to be true. Any deviation generates surprise and makes us alert to that new reality. We would like the ability to stop everything from leaking, but we actually don't. We would like to be asked for consent for most things that affect us, but we actually aren't.

We can't unshare things. So, instead, we must learn what information we leak and either improve our ability to control that or adjust our expectations. Both those things are important and productive. Demanding consent to be asked works but is unreliable.

At some time in the future our thoughts, the last bastion of privacy, will be at stake. Some technology will be able to sense our most intimate ideas at a distance. In this arms race, if we don't improve our understanding and ability to control privacy we must adjust our expectations of freedom.

without privacy there can be no freedom      -- reasonable people, everywhere


RE: Privacy: Your Consent Is Not Needed

by @Big_Bubbler

I am not going to lower my expectations of what should be kept private. You sound like your working for Google and/or the NSA to weaken The People's privacy expectations. Instead of submitting to the ongoing loss of privacy I think we need a popular movement to get it back.

RE: RE: Privacy: Your Consent Is Not Needed

by @m4ktub

That's the right approach, to not submit. My point was just that, although people don't usually think of it that way, it is an arms race. Those seeking your private information will hardly play by the rules and wait for your consent. So it's up to everyone to keep up with the times, to ask the right questions about services or technologies, and to value privacy.

RE: RE: RE: Privacy: Your Consent Is Not Needed

by @Big_Bubbler

Thanks for the support. Good to hear I misread your (hidden?) meaning. If it was me, I apologize for assuming the worst, lol. I am pissed off about where we are headed and wonder if we have a chance of taking back at least part of our human-right of privacy. It will not be easy. Glad to hear (reply above) the EU seems to be working towards that goal.

RE: RE: RE: Privacy: Your Consent Is Not Needed

by @Big_Bubbler

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RE: RE: Privacy: Your Consent Is Not Needed

by @adrianbarwicki

People are losing their privacy and it is a natural outcome of the world becoming more digital and interconnected. I don't expect the trend to slow down. Quite contrary. I expect the trend to accelerate.

I think it is crucial to enable individuals to opt-in and opt-out what to share and have also the right to be forgotten in the digital world.

In this context, I find the recent data privacy regulation in the Europe quite justified and support the policymakers for introducing the General Data Privacy Regulation although it is a huge pain for businesses, including Honest.Cash (based in Germany).

The GDPR aims primarily to give control to individuals over their personal data and makes businesses more accountable how they handle the data.

So to go back directly to your comment - Individuals should be able to decide on their own what should be kept private and what not. This should be then empowered by governmental regulations and be enforceable by law.