Democracy Requires Privacy

“Orwell was an optimist.” That’s what security researcher Mikko Hypponen said in his Ted talk.

He said it because he believes privacy is valuable. He believes, like the president of Brazil, that democracy can’t truly exist in a world without privacy. The basic logic here is that people tend to act differently when they know they’re being watched.

Not sure you if you agree? If you have a car, if you live in a place where other people have cars, watch someone in the car next to you (if you’re not driving;). You’ll see people bobbing to their music, sometimes without rhythm. You’ll see beautiful women picking their noses. You’ll see people texting while they drive (that’s illegal where I live). 

The reason you’ll see these things is because we feel as if we’re alone in our cars, despite the fact that most cars have three vertical feet of windows going all the way around the car.

When people think they’re being watched, their posture will change, their actions will be things more appropriate to being in public. They will still be trying to impress, or at least persuade the world that the persona they project is real.

We’re all humans. We all do this.

It’s one of the reasons I’m so impressed by the actors in ALGORITHM. Despite the fact that there are people who are right in front of them, watching their every move, evaluating and, in my case as the director, making modifications as needed.

Acting is a skill and doing it well requires a lot of talent and a lot of training. Most of us, myself included, aren’t very good at it, especially when we’re being watched.

If we want to maintain our society as it is now, with relatively similar values, there can be no compromising on privacy, whatever the cost in security might be. We must pay it. Or, we risk losing what freedoms remain. Because, as things are now, there is always someone watching. And, like it or not, we’re different when we’re being watched.