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Home » Glenn Greenwald on Why Privacy Matters (Transcript)

Glenn Greenwald on Why Privacy Matters (Transcript)

Glenn Greenwald

In this searing talk at a TED conference, Glenn Greenwald makes the case for why you need to care about privacy, even if you’re “not doing anything you need to hide.”

 

Glenn Greenwald – Journalist

There is an entire genre of YouTube videos devoted to an experience which I am certain that everyone in this room has had. It entails an individual who, thinking they’re alone, engages in some expressive behavior — wild singing, gyrating dancing, some mild sexual activity — only to discover that, in fact, they are not alone, that there is a person watching and lurking, the discovery of which causes them to immediately cease what they were doing in horror. The sense of shame and humiliation in their face is palpable. It’s the sense of, “This is something I’m willing to do only if no one else is watching.”

This is the crux of the work on which I have been singularly focused for the last 16 months, the question of why privacy matters, a question that has arisen in the context of a global debate, enabled by the revelations of Edward Snowden that the United States and its partners, unbeknownst to the entire world, has converted the Internet, once heralded as an unprecedented tool of liberation and democratization, into an unprecedented zone of mass, indiscriminate surveillance.

There is a very common sentiment that arises in this debate, even among people who are uncomfortable with mass surveillance, which says that there is no real harm that comes from this large-scale invasion because only people who are engaged in bad acts have a reason to want to hide and to care about their privacy.

This worldview is implicitly grounded in the proposition that there are two kinds of people in the world: good people and bad people. Bad people are those who plot terrorist attacks or who engage in violent criminality and therefore have reasons to want to hide what they’re doing, have reasons to care about their privacy.

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