Egos and anti-viruses: why privacy matters
Step aside Kanye West, thereâ€™s a new presidential candidate in town. Thatâ€™s right, itâ€™s none other than real life James Bond villain and self proclaimed â€œeccentric millionaire,â€ John McAfee. Exciting news, no? If the name rings any bells, itâ€™s likely because John (is it ok if we call you John? I feel like weâ€™re on that level…) is the anti-virus software tycoon responsible for the majority of pop ups about unsafe sites and porn viruses on your dear old grandmotherâ€™s computer. Itâ€™s not everyday that we start an editorial ignoring our hip hop gold guru in favor of the elusive software connoisseur but we figured itâ€™d be a good stepping point into some more important issues, notably privacy. While we arenâ€™t sure what West will be running for in 2020 (we assume a national day for himself and mandatory leather pants for corporate, alongside some actual real ideas on race and social inequality), McAfee is planning on running under his own newly created â€œCyber Party.â€ After receiving encouragement from â€œalmost everyoneâ€ he knows, John is running on a platform criticizing the governmentâ€™s online security and increasing surveillance. The manâ€™s bizarrely odd lifestyle and past aside, he raises valuable points on issues of privacy, noting its loss and the illusion of security put forth by the government. Glossing over his confidence in his â€œhuge undergroundâ€ web following and the sure fact that he will indeed win, McAfee has hopefully reignited a spark in the realm of privacy rights.
We share some of McAfeeâ€™s concerns ourselvesâ€”after incidents like PRISM and the NSA scandal, the issue of privacy is real. We have lost great amounts of privacy to the hands of a government said to be our protector and for what? Claims that this mass data helps prevent terrorist attacks and violence? That if you havenâ€™t done anything wrong you have nothing to hide? Privacy isnâ€™t secrecy: we all know what happens in the bathroom, but simply because we know doesnâ€™t mean we donâ€™t want the door to be closed when we enter the stall. There are plenty of cases where innocent people, with â€œnothing to hideâ€ have been falsely victimized (David Mery as an example). Even if people are not arrested or convicted, anything remotely â€œwrongâ€ or â€œpotentially suspiciousâ€ on someone means they are forever viewed through that light, regardless of the correctness of that interpretation.
Certainly there are benefits to having some of our data accessible by the government, but at what point is it too much? Law enforcement should be able to access phone records and files but only with sufficient merit and probable cause, not simply because some kid on League of Legends told another competitor in a fit of rage that he would â€œfucking kill himâ€ (probably with a few extra exclamation marks and an array of insults comprised of more numbers than letters). Information is power. And when that information is in the wrong hands, it leads to one side, in this case, our own government, having an upper hand and an unfair role in various aspects of the game of life.
The mentality of â€œhaving nothing to hideâ€ divides the world into two grups of people, those who are bad (terrorists, criminals) and those who are good, who use the web and information to Facetime, to share books or to plan their next trip. The â€œgoodâ€ people have nothing to hide since they are, by definition, good. But by labeling ourselves as such, we are implying that we are nothing more than boring, harmless and entirely uninteresting individuals who hold never question the government. We should be free to critique our government without fear of being put on a list of potential threats. These â€œgoodâ€ people? They have plenty to hide but none of it is illegal. It is often embarrassing or immoral, hurtful or just extremely personal. And for that reason they should want to hide it. And thereâ€™s nothing wrong with that.
The difficulty in this debate is that everyone is comfortable with differing levels of privacy and differing levels of government control and interference. And while John McAfee may not be the best candidate for the presidency at least he is attempting to spark a discussion on something that is immensely important. Powerful and divisive issues are never easy to solve. They take timeâ€”there may not be an answer anytime soon. But simply because it is a hard talk to have doesnâ€™t mean we shouldnâ€™t be having it.
If anything we can all at least agree that both the anti-virus genius McAfee and the egotistical and polarizing West will offer at least some more substance to their debates, whether now or in 2020, than the GOP darling Trump. Hereâ€™s to a McAfee-West 2016/20 ticket. Iâ€™ll be sure to get a bumper sticker for that.