Privacy in Digital Society

Privacy is a big concern in digital society. In the original prehistoric community, people lived together and there was no privacy. But these people shared the common destiny. If there was a hunger, they would all be hungry. If the tribe gets a disease, all members would be impacted. However, when they would encounter another tribe, that tribe would be seen as a rival, so they would not share information, at least until they are sure they were not competing for the same resources. Even then they would not share all knowledge, but only a necessary minimum and respecting the reciprocity principle. Nowadays, it should be similar. We should not keep our private information away from those with whom we share common destiny, but we should not share our personal information with those who are not going to be hungry if we are.

The structure of the globalized society nowadays is much more complex. It is not flat. Even though in the digital society it looks like that all people are equal and everybody can become a global influencer, we are in reality not. There are incredibly many circles of collective identities and group interests. And if we want to keep belonging to these communities, we need to protect our privacy and the privacy of these communities, by sharing the information only with those who are together with us in that same circle (who will suffer together with us). This means establishing and using a decentralized system of isolated communications and storing the internal knowledge without exposures. If we are not able to do it, if these decentralized, secure and isolated systems with decentralized governance don’t exist, then we are not able to preserve the privacy of these collective identities. Sooner or later, we will need to submit to a larger narrative of those who might get access to our communications or those who provide and control the platforms we use for information and knowledge sharing.

The problem appears if we are offered free service in exchange for our private information. We teach our children not to take a chocolate from a stranger, but in this case, we are adults so we naively think there is no harm for us. This stranger is somewhere remote, so if there is any danger, it doesn’t look significant. We believe that we expose ourselves in a limited way, offering information only about some aspects of our personal lives. And we have a good experience with this stranger – we have already taken some candies and nothing bad happened. But do we really know what they will use our information for, how will they analyze it, to whom will they sell it, and how will that impact their originally free service ? Are we sure these partial elements of our lives will not get recomposed somewhere and used to manipulate us, or simply said, make us more addicted to their services ? And about our communities, do we really believe that without privacy we can build them at all ? Without privacy, there is no identity and there is no community. People don’t want to share and don’t want to invest themselves. And without strong communities, we all individually become vulnerable and weak.

Do I mean that we should create some secretive cryptocommunities ? No, there must be a democratic control so that individual or group interests don’t put in danger the common destiny of the larger collectives to whom they belong. But this should be transparent (open source) process, the responsibility and authority of all of us.

Sasha Lazarevic
June 2023