Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world. A private individual controls what personal information they want to disclose publicly, without being coerced into doing so. Privacy is a human right and personal information is private property. The right to private property, and by implication the right to privacy, is fundamental to a free society. Rights are not given, they are taken, protected or forfeited. It is your responsibility to protect your privacy.
If you delegate your control of your private information to someone else you now have to trust them that they will keep it safe and secure. Furthermore, you are now asking them for permission every time you want to access your private information, which can be denied at any moment. It’s best to assume that there will be a permanent record of your published data. People you are currently trusting your data with will not be the same people in the future, and it’s impossible to know what their intentions will be then. Even if they’re not currently misusing your data (how can you be sure of that?), your data can get hacked or stolen. It could then be sold or published online for everyone to see, and in extreme situations it could be used to extort you. When trust is involved the right to private property is forfeited and control is lost. This is a good reason to think seriously about this.
Most commercial services nowadays require some form of KYC from their users, such as full name, email, phone number, home address, bank statements, credit card information, etc. On the other hand, software requires surprisingly little information to operate successfully. A messaging service, for example, doesn’t need to know who the sender and recipient is, or the message contents. It only needs to know how to route an encrypted message from user A to user B and calculate the fee. Same goes for payment services, social media services and so on.
Then why are we forced to disclose so much private information in order to use these service? Because most of them are first of all tracking services, and then anything else. They know who you talk to, what you’re spending your money on, your location, the websites you visit, your political views, etc. Your private information is now public information and it’s being updated in real time. This information is used to profile you and to generate personalized ads, but also to censor you, manipulate you and to keep you in check. Additionally, most services are closed source and it’s impossible to know exactly how they use your data. It’s best to assume the worst.
This is a subtle and indirect form of coercion. If you don’t want to use these services, you don’t have to, right? Sure, but when all services force users to KYC then it becomes extremely hard to navigate the social landscape without using them. “We don’t force you to use our services, but if you don’t your life will be miserable.”
WeChat is a Chinese everything app that can be used for texts, voice and video calls, payments, maps, and whatever else. You can’t live in China without using WeChat, and it has zero privacy. Everything you do on WeChat is monitored and recorded, and the data is sent straight to the CCP. And they happily exert their totalitarian control over it. Posts and conversations get censored in real-time. Accounts are constantly banned. Word on the street is WeChat also includes spyware that tracks everything you do on your phone outside of WeChat, has access to your phone’s settings, and can install other apps without your permission. China has a social credit score system that also gets impacted if you do or say the wrong thing on WeChat. Depending on the severity of your situation, you might not be able to pay for services, chat with people, buy plane or train tickets, or take out loans.
Everything that happens on WeChat has to be approved by the government, or else! WeChat’s privacy intrusive and controlling environment promotes fear among its citizens and inevitably leads to self-censorship. When people speak their mind, they are immediately silenced and punished. Hence, people stop speaking their mind. Another way of saying it is, people stop thinking. "When you have something to say, silence is a lie and tyranny feeds on lies" - Jordan Peterson.
While the West doesn’t use a social credit system (yet), it has its fair share of privacy intrusive systems and censorship mechanisms. One example is the fiat monetary system. Of course, you need to KYC before using online payment services and all your transactions are recorded. Additionally, your transactions must conform to AML policies. AML refers to the set of rules and regulations created by FATF, an unelected bureaucratic entity, to supposedly catch the bad guys who want to launder money. While AML regulations are becoming increasingly stricter, they're not efficient and in fact have the opposite effect. Another point of view is that AML regulations work exactly as intended if the goal is to keep the population in check.
One might argue against privacy saying that mass surveillance and regulations are needed to stop criminal activities. This implies that everyone is guilty until proven innocent, hence everyone has to give up their rights. Except the bad guys, of course. They always find ways around these rules. Privacy invasive laws don’t incentivize obedience, they incentivize control and circumvention. If privacy is outlawed, only outlaws will have privacy, and honest people will suffer the consequences.
“I don’t care about privacy because I have nothing to hide” is another common and perilous argument. It paves the way for society to build itself on the premise that individuals don’t care about their rights and are not willing to defend them. Unchecked power tends to centralize, and the resulting social framework will gradually and inevitably converge towards a totalitarian regime. In such an adversarial environment you won’t even have the “privilege” of giving away your rights willingly anymore, you will be coerced into doing so. Then it will become clear how important your rights are, and how difficult and dangerous it is to take them back once you have forfeited them. Communism, welcome!
“Saying that you don't care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is like saying that you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”- Edward Snowden. Love him or hate him, he makes a great point.
Privacy is hard. Significant effort needs to be put into educating oneself on the intricacies of how privacy works and how it can be preserved. Privacy involves multiple layers, and it can feel overwhelming at first. It’s important to understand that privacy is not binary, it’s a spectrum. While absolute privacy is arguably impossible, basic approaches, like understanding your individual threat model, can have a significant impact. A major setback is the demoralizing realization that you’ve been giving away your personal information freely all this time. What’s the point anymore? The point is to take back your freedom, you sissy.
Privacy and freedom require responsibility, and responsibility is scary. It implies a constant negotiation with yourself, with other people, with online systems, and with the political system you’re a part of. It requires discipline and maturity. It’s more convenient to remain an ignorant kid and to trust someone else to make decisions on your behalf, than it is to become a responsible adult. Convenience is the enemy of privacy.
There is also a psychological aspect to this. We are pack animals that want to fit in. We tend to use what everyone else is using, even if what everyone else is using privacy invasive services. It’s hard to split away from your pack and go against it. People will judge you, call you a conspiracy theorist, tell you you’re going too far. Fuck them!
Without privacy there’s no freedom. It’s our moral obligation to protect our right to privacy. In doing so we embark on a spiritual pursuit for liberation, releasing ourselves from the shackles of immaturity and building ourselves into a strong and dependable individual that will become the backbone of a free society.
Like the Edward Snowden quote.
I would love to learn more about privacy, in the context of - what's is the low-hanging fruit? what do many people who are new to these concepts do wrong, what's a relatively easy first step?
Privacy is one of those concepts that it's easy to throw your hands up and just not think about it. Because it so quickly seems to get so difficult.
Love this question, because it always seems too overwhelming for people initially. There's definitely some low-hanging fruit which I would focus on with something similar to the below order. Some great guides on here already. I consolidated a bunch into a SN directory the other day.
Low-hanging fruit
  1. Get a VPN first with MullVad (SN post here) or Proton (SN post here).
  2. Separate passwords so never using same ones and have easy method to manage them - suggest Bitwarden but many solutions discussed here on SN.
  3. Next, buy yourself a domain (see this SN post). And create a bunch of email aliases for each service you log-in to, so none share the same email. And neither the same password, because of #2.
  4. Use a more private web browser - Brave (discussed on SN), Thorium (discussed on SN), Tor and many others.
  5. Always buy Bitcoin privately, i.e. non-KYC (as discussed on SN).
  6. Keep separate names and nyms for public & btc discussions. This one is probably very sensible and many other people should listen to this advice 🤔
Then, once have some momentum & motivation...
  1. Install open-source operating systems - graphene OS, linux, qubesOS on devices
  2. Consider Lightning, coinjoins and UXTO consolidation.
  3. Look into eSims, Wifi and much much more.
  4. Become a hermit and the enemy of your friends and family 😄 increasing your privacy 'rank' by disposing of phone numbers and emails regularly:

The privacy journey looks something like this...
Privacy is freedom we should never underrate
Privacy is a human right
This should be the one thing everyone on the internet know and it should be demanded from data harvesting companies
Without privacy there’s no freedom.
That's it
Last time I got a phone I was surprised at how much crap Google included in their Pixels these days. The OS used to be so lean when they started it.
Swapped it to GrapheneOS and now all those pesky extra apps and trackers are gone.
It does require some time to find Open Source alternatives, but now I have everything covered. It feels so nice to use my phone now.
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Some think he conspired with Russia against the US and view him as a traitor, and Russia basically offers him asylum now. Something like that, I'm not exactly sure.
I have no opinion on the matter. I read his book and I think it's a great read for privacy enthusiasts.