NSA Need Not Look Here
Edward Snowden, the whistleblower of the NSA, is arguably one of the better-known crusaders for privacy. When he talks, people listen, which is why Tech Crunch reports:
According to Edward Snowden, people who care about their privacy should stay away from popular consumer Internet services like Dropbox, Facebook, and Google.
The argument is made that those who value privacy ought to stay away from popular consumer Internet services. The argument can be broken down into this:
- Premise: People who care about privacy take measures to ensure their privacy
- Premise: Popular internet services do not ensure the privacy of their users
- Conclusion: Therefore people who care about their privacy should stay away from popular consumer Internet services
First, to determine the soundness of Snowden’s argument, we must ensure that the arguments are true/accurate.
- Premise 1 can be contested, though is mostly accepted.
- Premise 2 can be contested. Popular Internet services may not have privacy as their highest concern, it may be argued that Internet services are not antagonistic to privacy. Companies like Dropbox actively encrypt files transferred from you to their servers, and are also encrypted while they rest on their servers as well.
Therefore, the flaw in Snowden’s logic lies in premise 2, stating that popular consumer internet services do not ensure the privacy of their users. Though the form of the argument may be valid, premise 2’s error in its contents damages the truth of its premises, and consequently the conclusion reached.
The reason why Snowden may have come to this conclusion is another argument in itself. Though his idea of ‘privacy’ may differ from those of a layman, he should be aware that not all popular consumer internet services disregard privacy, though many do. This misconception may have come from numerous sensationalist titles of news articles:
The Guardian – “Apple’s Tim Cook attacks Google and Facebook over privacy flaws”
BBC News – “Google urged to change privacy rules by data regulators”
Reuters – “German privacy watchdog tells Google to restrict use of data”
ABC News – “How Hackers Got Private Photos Without Ever Breaching Snapchat’s Servers”
Dailymail UK – “We’re not reading your email or your iMessages’: Apple boss Tim Cook hits out at privacy claims following iCloud hacks”
The links above are just a few examples of headlines denouncing popular consumer Internet services like Google, Facebook, and Snapchat so it’s very likely for people to assume that social media and Internet services don’t have peoples’ privacy in mind. However, because many of these companies’ backbones consist of users’ information, they put in place many privacy measures that users can utilize. Though not saints of any kind, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Snapchat servers themselves rarely get hacked. However, the average consumer does not put privacy as the highest concern, resulting in shared or week passwords for multiple accounts, or the usage of third-party apps resulting in privacy issues unconcerning the companies themselves.
Though Snowden brings up a good point that those concerned with privacy should be more vigilant when approaching social media and internet services, privacy is not always in the hands of the company that holds the information. Though hacks on servers are not unheard of, many times the user themselves are what cause privacy-related problems. And because of that, not all people concerned with privacy should stay away from popular consumer internet services.