Talking about privacy and security, I recently heard Whit Diffie compare it to “talking about cancer” — it is a huge topic, and curing (all) cancer seems insurmountable. What can any one person do about it? It is so complex, so seemingly technical, and any normal person faced with the size of that mountain, cannot help but feel overwhelmed and powerless. It’s easy to just give in or give up.
Let’s look closer, though: many of us have a good idea of the worst dangers to our health and what increases our risk of cancer: we know tobacco use is pretty obviously connected, we know not to play with asbestos (what a pretty white cloud!), radiation (even from the sun), and many pesticides and other chemicals are known carcinogens because tests demonstrate the linkage.
In privacy, there are also simple actions available to anyone, that produce a beneficial outcome to improve your privacy. It’s no more complex or technical than “don’t smoke cigarettes”, or “don’t play with asbestos”. Every little thing we do, moves us along the journey to better privacy. Use private messaging such as Signal, encrypted email such as Protonmail or Startmail. Search engines that at least say they won’t track your usage and give (sell) that information are available; try DuckDuckGo or StartPage. You probably already know not to give out your personal information such as your social security number or credit card number to people who don’t have a business or regulatory need for it (at the pizza shop? no, don’t give your social security number to the pizza maker). Join a cryptoparty and learn something, it’s actually fun as well.
“I have nothing to hide”
Finally, I heard on a radio show a good response to the common statement “I have nothing to hide.” To these folks I say “Sure you have nothing to hide, but when you go to the bathroom, you still close the door, right? We all like our privacy, even if we have nothing to hide.” Don’t give it all up yet.