I am amazed at how willing some people are to totally ditch their privacy for "more relevant ads." I'm willing to give up a little privacy for more relevant ads in specific areas. But forfeiting all privacy means forfeiting safety, individuality, and even free expression. And always receiving "more relevant ads" is like donning blinders.
I confess that during the 1990s I was leery of privacy activists. At that time the issue was whether individual websites should be allowed to recognize returning users and track how they used their sites. It struck me as counterproductive to prevent websites from leveraging personalization technology. Plus, privacy activists seemed to be calling for government intervention in a market offering consumers more and more choices.
However, things have changed. With retail and wholesale search, embedded YouTube videos, and Google Analytics—to name just a few—Google can track you almost everywhere you go on the Web. I don't mind being recognized by Amazon.com and being presented book recommendations. But I don't want to be tracked everywhere and at all times. Nor do I only want to see ads that reinforce my existing interests and likes. (Advertising is a great way to spur new interests.)
I've learned that privacy is important. Without privacy, you can’t be who you want, because you are forced to reveal everything. Without privacy, there’s little opportunity for independent thought or dissent, because your ideas are immediately subjected to public scrutiny. Without privacy, there can be no human dignity, because others can barge in on you whenever they like.
Here's the kicker: You cannot establish and maintain your personal identity without privacy. Your account numbers, user IDs, passwords, and phone numbers are your private property. Keeping that information confidential is not only legitimate, it’s necessary for your safety.
I also reject Eric Schmidt's creepy argument: “If you're online all the time, computers are generating a lot of information about you. This is not a Google decision, this is a societal decision.” The fact that a decision is a "societal decision" does not make it right.