Elephant in the room (part 1)

I’m living in a Continent where (it sounds like) nobody really cares about software freedom, data privacy, surveillance. I guess, people here are simply too busy trying to stay alive, not enough time to think about FOSS. Or maybe they’re simply confused, maybe they simply don’t know.

The topic is wide, it’s easy to digress, and I’m not sure about the best way to tackle it (consider this to be a first draft, updates will come). Let’s say it’s just an attempt, an effort, to at least address the issue.


Okay. Let me put you in the context…


Will you be okay with anybody trying to:

  • Fix any of your furnitures.
  • Take you anywhere you want.
  • Offer you any food you want.
  • Pay for all your phone, sms, mail bills.
  • Let you watch any movie, any film, any show.
  • Alert you about something every 5mn.


And in exchange the same person:

Won’t ask you for any money, nothing, he’ll just keep a tiny tiny list of all:

  • the furnitures in your house?
  • the places you visit?
  • the foods you eat?
  • the conversations you had?
  • the movies you watched?
  • the time he notified you? The reason he notified you?


Do we agree that you won’t be okay?

In standard conditions for temperature and pressure, you won’t be okay with anybody offering you the deal above because (among many other reasons):

  • you don’t want anybody to access your private space
  • you want to keep a certain level of autonomy, independance.
  • you want to preserve your physical integrity.


Interestingly:

So, it sounds like:

  • Nobody want me to put a webcam and a microphone in their house.
  • Nobody want me to have the key to their house.
  • Nobody want me to follow them.
  • Nobody want me to take picture of them.

Yet, most of the same people are using all kinds of “privacy invading” technologies on a daily basis: Siri, Alexa, Google. I won’t even talk about smart TVs, nor Facebook.


Any reasons that let us give our datas to the Tech Giants?

People use privacy invading software for maaaaany reasons that can be understood.

There is the “I need to figure out what to eat today” reason. Present all over the world, especially for the poorer people. Even more true in the Black continent.

There is the fact that implications (of using privacy invading software) are invisible, not obvious. While the benefits are immediate, concrete, observable.

Terms of Service are, most of the time, confusing, difficult, blurry.

There is also the “I use it because people around me are using it” reason. People are moved by those around them and wish to fit in as quickly as possible, as simply as possible.


Henrik Ibsen said “A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed”. And I definitely agree with him:

Picture taken from


Do you know that:

  1. Your right to physical integrity was already affirmed in 1222, inside the Manden Charter, article 5:

Everybody has a right to life and to the preservation of physical integrity. […]


2. Your right to privacy was affirmed in 1948 by 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.


3. Within the European Convention on Human Rights, in the article 8, we can read:

Right to respect for private and family life.

  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

  2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.


4. The U.S. constitution Fourth Amendment states that:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.



The point seems to be: Every human being has a right to privacy, and this right should not be violated.


What is privacy?

I was not able to find a fixed, simple, perfect, static definition of privacy. The definition may vary from one country to another, from one constitution to another, from one period of time to another.

But I guess we can agree that privacy is any information that intrudes into the privacy/intimacy of the individual. Right? Privacy is that thing which is essential to the protection of our dignity as Human Being. Right? Anything that is directly related to :

  • your private space, your house, your image,
  • your financial status, your medical status,
  • your religious, political, or even sexual orientations,


Privacy is the fundamental way to protect yourself


Some of the solutions we can explore:

How do we defend ourselves and our friends from privacy invading technologies? What can we do to safeguard our personal privacy. What are the ways we can use to better protect ourselves when going online? What are the alternatives to the privacy invading software? I’ll talk about the solutions in the next article (coming soon).


No, I’m not:

  • Saying that I’ve all the answers.
  • Saying that you should do as I say.
  • Asking you to close all your accounts.
  • Asking you to go back to the stone age.
  • Trying to make you affraid of technology.
  • Saying that I’ve found all the alternatives.
  • Saying that migrating from privacy invading software will be an easy task.


What I’m asking you:

Completely shuting down all the Tech Giants won’t be an easy task. It cannot be done within the snap of a finger (I wish it could). Let’s stay optimistic, there is still some actionable steps we can take to help:

  • Ask yourself :

    • Why are you using those platforms?
    • What are the services you really need?
    • Is there any alternatives? (Respecting your privacy).
  • Be aware:

    • of the risks, of the pros & cons.
    • that if it’s free, you’re probably the product
  • Ask for more:

    • Transparency to all those platforms.
    • Regulation & protection to your leaders, your governments.
  • Spark conversation, everywhere.


This topic is too wide to be covered entirely in this tiny article. I really hope you’re learned something. I strongly recommend the following links for a better exploration and understanding of the topic.

The following is a list of resources you should download, browse & share:



Thanks:

Special thanks to Orbifx, the Nature’s emissary., and Travis Kalanick. They both gave me interesting ideas to help me finish this article.



Do not forget: