Is the Era of Privacy Over?

Regardless of whether people have read a George Orwell novel or not, it seems that everyone is talking about the author. This is because of the belief that the era of privacy, and of certain other freedoms many of us have enjoyed for decades, might be over. The measures that governments have been taking to get information from Internet service providers (ISPs) have really unsettled their customers. As far as they are concerned, they feel as if their movements are being followed. The recent NSA scandal in the United States doesn’t really help matters much. The ultimate question now is: have we left the era of privacy behind us?

In Day-To-Day Life, It Isn’t Much Better

When you enter a store, there will be cameras pointed at you no matter where you go. That store has an interest to make sure that its merchandise is intact, and it ensures this by catching anyone who goes against this interest. Surveillance also appears inside of buses, at railway stops, and pretty much everywhere else you find yourself. Whoever has the power to watch you also has the power to incriminate you with or without just cause. This has been a concern for several decades already ever since CCTV cameras have existed. The truth is that with new developments come new ways of keeping people and objects in check. Ancient civilizations used men posted in towers to watch the townsfolk. Surveillance is nothing new.



As has been previously discussed, as new developments come about, there will always be people who will find uses for that technology. Often, those uses infringe on the privacy of others. Take for example the apps that access other apps on your smartphone. Apple has a perfect example of this: A rumor is going around that it is developing a new version of Siri that can tap into your apps to provide you with better service. If we want to be more concrete, we can look at the appearance of fingerprint scanners on smartphones, most recently the Samsung Galaxy S5.

These things can be used in one way or another (perhaps not now, but likely in the future) in a data-mining operation to construct a database of fingerprints and purchase histories. The smartphone is perhaps the most powerful surveillance tool in history, and one of them is probably sitting in your hand as you read this article right now.



Unless you live in Russia, chances are your car doesn’t have a dash cam. Either way, dash cams are usually pointed in the direction you’re driving, not directly at you. However, there are a couple of pieces of technology that might start appearing in some cars in the near future that point monitoring devices at you. Some of them measure your heart rate from a distance, and others just look at you while you’re driving to make sure you’re not distracted.

In a way, this is a positive development, since it’s nice to have a car that will yell at you when you lose focus on the road. But on the other hand, being conscious that you’re being watched may make you feel a bit creeped out. And, yet again, this can be used as another form of surveillance, albeit a slightly beneficial one. For example, you can easily have an alibi if you find yourself at the scene of the crime by providing video evidence demonstrating that you were in your car the moment a crime occurred.

It’s Over, Folks, But…

Publications all over the world talk about how the era of privacy is over. What they fail to mention is that it was over a long time ago. As new forms of surveillance appeared, they were quickly adopted. Nobody is immune to this. If you want to live in the worldwide community, you just have to accept that this is a reality we can’t run away from. Welcome to the 21st century.

What are your thoughts? Let’s hear them in a comment below!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.


  1. The era of privacy ended when the first two computers were networked together and we have been losing more and more privacy as time goes on. Whatever we have today is only an illusion of privacy. Just google your name and see how much information there is on the ‘Net about you. And I don’t mean the information you freely provided to the social networks.

  2. Besides privacy defending or correcting the misconception some of this collected information with one small error is becoming more important and in some cases impossible

  3. We lost all rights to privacy when the Homeland Security Bill was passed after 9/11. What surprises me is all the noise the congress is making about phone taping and their lose of privacy. Didn’t they bother to read the bill they signed? Everything the NSA has done or is doing is completely legal.

    I read the bill before it was passed and let my members oder congress know how I felt about it. We, as Americans, are responsible to understand what the government is doing. We have the right to contact these people and let our views be known on whatever the subject is! The complacency of American citizens is to blame for the governments policies.

    Especially today with internet access a viable to everyone, either at home or to public libraries. We need to stand up and take responsibility for what we have made.

    1. We lost privacy since long before 9/11. To think otherwise would be disingenuous. I understand that one of the biggest rights violations in the US came about with the PATRIOT act and many other subsequent pieces of legislation. However, governments around the world have had a habit of putting their populace under surveillance long before these.

      1. Everybody is hot and bothered with government(s) surveilling and collecting data on citizens. Yes, they do and they have been doing it for decades, if not longer. The surveillance and data collection by governmental entities is in a small way constarined by existing laws. The danger lies in private individuals and private companies performing the same acts because their surveillance and data collection ARE NOT constrained by any legislation. They can, and do, collect data with impunity.

        How much information do online stores like Amazon, Newegg, Overstock, LL Bean, etc have on all of their shoppers? How much information do banks have on their customers? Private companies/individuals know more about you than then government entities do. They also know more about you then you know, or remember, about yourself.

        Don’t think that this a recent phenomenon, started with the Internet. Thirty years ago my wife used to work for a company called ListWorks. They were a data aggregators. For a small fee they could provide their customers with list of names matching any demographics the customer wanted. Many customers were the direct mail companies, but many others were department stores, supermarkets, real estate agents, anybody who had anything to sell. And there were hundreds, if not thousands, data aggregators like ListWorks. Internet only helped them streamline their operations.

  4. A person simply has to decide to be one of the herd and be one of the kept people, or decided to learn what they need to learn and apply it maintaining their privacy and independence. I use TOR regularly as well as encryption. I take steps to ensure my privacy and personal security stays intact. I have taught my children to think for themselves as well. I am not paranoid, and no I am not doing anything illegal. I just believe the Govt can mind it’s own business like everyone else, until there is a clear cut public need to do otherwise. Then they can convince a Judge to that effect.

    By the way, for those paranoid about excessive cameras, are you aware that a $3 laser pointer can disable most of them by overload? Have a little fun and knock them out for a few moments. Do it often enough they will think they are defective and have to pay a nice chunk of cash to have them “fixed”. Not much of a win, but amusing all the same.. Do it often enough and some might remove them as not being cost effective… lol

    1. Have you ever thought about the fact that when you start using those encryption tools and other ways to “hide” information from other you make yourself suspected just by the act of doing so.

      Best way to keep a secret is not telling or writing about it

  5. ” I take steps to ensure my privacy and personal security stays intact.”
    Good for you. (/sarcasm) Except do not be too sanguine about your privacy. Chances are that inspite of your efforts, you have very little of it, or none. When was the last time you did an Internet search on your and your families names? Your life and the lives of your family are an open book not only to the government but also to numerous private entities.

    Stores know the food you eat, what brand, style and size of clothes each member of your family wears, your salary, your taxes, your debts, probably the last time you had sex with your wife. Where you live, what kind of house you own, how it is furnished, what kinds of security measures you have in the house, where your kids go to school, their grades and state/national rankings, those facts are a matter of public record which anybody can look up. What you have is an illusion of privacy. If you want real privacy and security, you have to live totally off the grid.

    1. Speaking of stores, at the very least, they cannot imprison you. They can only send your info to the government. The problem we have is one of an imbalance of power in disfavor of the average Joe. This has been the problem since, like, forever. Things were getting better until recently, and that makes me a sad panda.

    2. Dragon: Actually, I do check from time to time. Remember there are two major ways to go after privacy. One is to hide the footprint, the other is flood the area with enough misinformation that you become lost in the noise. The best method is to combine the two. This is also the main method used by the CIA and FBI while helping someone fade: a combination of techniques. You do a search for the person, and you will find a few real entries, and a ton of plants all over the country. Just make yourself a calendar entry to sign up for a few things that you are sure will never generate a piece of real mail every few months and make sure it is in other cities in your state and surrounding states. Clouding yourself locally is usually enough as your name will appear on real people as you go farther out. But this level is for people trying to disappear, not for privacy protection. To just protect privacy, encryption is your friend. Not signing up for everything interesting that passes your eyes is another. Quit “LIKE”ing everything which gives a profile of your main interests, etc. Rent, don’t own. Use paypal rather than paying directly and having the stuff you buy sent to a fictitious name. As long as you pay via paypal, the merchant will never have the real info, unless you give it to them. All those merchant clubs and etc, sign up under a fictitious name and pay cash. You still get the benefits by flashing the key fob, but your name is not connected. These are just basic steps. And, it is easy to take them to the point it becomes absurd – but they are effective.

      Hope this helps.

      1. All that sounds so simple in theory but in practice it’s not so easy. If you get a chance check out last night’s 60 Minutes report on Data Brokers. It will give something (a lot) to think about. It is about private companies such as Axciom and Epsilon that collect any and all data about everybody and then sell it to anybody willing to pay, be it other private companies or government agencies. At least the NSA has a plausible excuse for data collection – national security. Data Brokers collect data just for its own intrinsic value.

  6. Dragon:

    Yep, that is why polluting the water (actually what the technique is called at the CIA) is so effective. It effectively invalidates the data. All the bad data makes it worthless where you are concerned.. What really makes this effective is if a large number of people start doing it, then the data isn’t worth a nickle as a product. Sometimes saving your privacy will cost you a little. Not getting that ultradeal at a supermarket due to refusing the key fob and their “club” sometimes in getting the people you write regularly to finally embrace encryption and using the keys regularly. It all comes down to what your privacy is worth to you.

    One paranoid friend even built his own home grown security system that can run off grid for over 2 weeks. It has both defensive and offensive capabilities. It calls him, and with an app on his phone, he can check all his cameras and trigger the offensive aspect if needed. Now that, is what I call paranoid. It cost him lots of $$ and lots of time to make it. If it goes without contact past a certain point, it goes into full activation automatically. THAT is overkill. but it is what he feels he needs to protect himself and his privacy. Everybody has different privacy needs.


  7. I disagree man. Privacy on the web can be protected. The www is not owned by anyone and there are ways not to be tracked personally with these. There are tools available which will lead agencies to them and not the common people.

    Unblk is one such service. It is one of the better tools which will always keep you anonymous. I personally use it for regular browsing. It keeps my boss to follow what I am doing online in the office.

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