Can Too Much Privacy Actually Increase Your Risk?

My rather unusual theory; that too much privacy might actually reduce your security, stems from a few things:

1) Security is all about baselines, and anything that falls outside of those baselines should be prevented, or at least investigated;

2) Everything you do in life is based around one thing; your identity. Relationships, work, and everything you do over the Internet is a direct reflection of all the things that make you, you. It’s the AUTHENTICATION of your identity that enables your everyday actions online. It also exposes your data, and;

3) The one thing that has no place in pro-active security; Big Data, actually has an enormous role to play in your privacy and the security of your identity. Somewhat counterintuitively, it’s the big data that provides the baseline from which your identity can be protected.

Most of us know that your spending patterns are what the banks / card brands use to detect potential fraud, but this data is only a small part of your identity, the sum of which includes (but is not limited to); your location, work history, financial history, family and friends, likes and dislikes, and pretty much everything you’ve ever posted online.

What if your identity could be profiled? Not in the negative way used to profile ‘possible terrorists’, but in a way that prevents someone else from being you. For example:

1) Why would you buy an international airline ticket if you don’t have a passport, or if you have never previously left your own country?;

2) Would someone start posting hate filled messages on FB /Twitter etc. if all they’ve posted previously are funny cat stories?;

3) Would someone change address and order new credit cards if nothing in their ‘profile’ suggested they were moving?;

4) Would someone go on a spending spree, when their ‘profile’ suggests a lifetime of frugality?;

…and so on.

The answer to all of these questions, is maybe, and except for 2., they most certainly should not be stopped from performing these legitimate actions, but there COULD be a greater degree of due diligence on the part of the organisations fulfilling these requests to confirm identity first. This is only possible if they have access to a profile from which to make these necessary decisions.

The profile does not have to contain all of your deepest darkest secrets, but enough of your identity has to be available for organisations to make judgment calls. Yes, this could be used for targeted marketing (not everyone is covered by the GDPR), and yes, bad people will always find ways of using a ‘profile’ for more nefarious reasons, but we already HAVE many forms of profiling that we take for granted; credit scores, CV/resumes, social media content, circle of friends, clubs / associations and so on.

The use of these existing profiles for good and bad is not so much in the individual components, it’s in the whole, and it’s one of the rare instances where the whole is in fact greater than the sum of its parts. However, the more information that’s out there should lead to a safer profile due to numerous overlapping and cross-referenced checks and balances, all of which report back to you.

Of course, there will always be those who instantly assume this will become an Orwellian dystopia and move to a cabin in the woods, and there will be those who see it as a utopia and jump in head first. The answers for the rest of us lie somewhere in-between, and will evolve over time.

This generation is already making it happen in my opinion, with the prevalence of social media entire lives are being documented online, and the apparent lack of common sense when it comes to posting compromising selfies suggests that our idea of what’s ‘private’, is not theirs. What my generation cares about, cannot be forced upon the next, and our values cannot dictate how the next generation leads their lives, but what we CAN do is design an identity framework that turns privacy into what it’s always been; a form of ‘currency’ for which YOU need to take full responsibility.

Spend too much and you’ll have no identity to call your own, spend too little and you’ll be left behind.

What you want, and what we don’t currently have, is a choice.

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