Six Lines

TED Radio Hour on Privacy

Posted by Aaron Massey on 05 Feb 2014.

NPR’s TED Radio Hour recently did an episode on privacy that serves as a great introduction to modern privacy concerns. It serves as a solid introduction to privacy and covers quite a lot in just an hour. If you’ve been looking for something to point your skeptical friends and family towards, this is a pretty even-handed introduction to the issues.

I’m regularly on the look out for good introductions to privacy, and it’s worth taking a moment to explain why. Not all problems are evaluated equally. We overestimate rare risks, and underestimate common risks. Bruce Schneier says this:

I tell people that if it’s in the news, don’t worry about it. The very definition of “news” is “something that hardly ever happens.” It’s when something isn’t in the news, when it’s so common that it’s no longer news – car crashes, domestic violence – that you should start worrying.

For things that we do all the time, we aren’t able to accurately assess the risk. A minimum of 30,000 Americans have died in traffic accidents every year since the end of World War 2, but most Americans feel perfectly comfortable driving.

Loss of privacy is an underestimated risk. Most of us are trying to sell ourselves, and we consider getting the word out effectively to be much harder than maintaining our privacy. Information technology is slowly but surely reversing these roles. It’s becoming harder and harder to maintain privacy and easier and easier to communicate with the rest of the world. I’m not even sure most people view privacy as a risk at all. The ‘nothing to hide’ argument still comes up regularly. This is why good introductions to privacy are so critical. Just recognizing that there is a risk and understanding the rough implications of privacy loss are big steps.