With the launch and demo of Google’s Chrome OS, where the OS is the browser and all your information lives online, my head was in the cloud (HA! No? Oh, alright). As much as I love the move towards an online life—where information stays in one place and the only thing that changes is the devices we use to access it—it’s hard not to take in the arguments that we’re throwing our privacy away.
Playing the part of the skeptic (not too much of a stretch for me), it’s not hard to see the concerns. Sure, at the moment there’s nothing in my Google Docs or on my blogs that will put me in jail or get me blackmailed, but it’s pretty easy to see a 9/11-type event or massive change in government that means more scrutiny on what we say and do. Our world can change in a big way, and what formerly seemed innocuous is now a crime, with all the evidence needed to convict available in the formerly-friendly-sounding cloud.
Meanwhile, the conspiracy theorists are sweeping the ashes of their burnt hard copies under the rug and going about their lives, which probably will involve embroidering a lovely “I Told You So” for their living room walls.
It seems extreme, but it’s happened before, and recently. We tend to believe that we can only get more free, but it can get snuffed out all too easily. Look at Afghanistan in the 20th century, and now imagine that kind of crackdown when everything you’ve said it not only easy to find, but is traced to your name, address and even social security number.
And that’s not even to mention smaller things like what your bosses or potential employers can find out about your, or what thieves of property or identity could use to more easily take things away from you. It happens.
But what if the flipside negates that? What if what we give up in privacy, we gain in freedom?
Yes, on the political front, having your opinions easily read as disobedience in a sudden government crackdown is chilling, but the ease and speed at which we can share stories in a wide broadcast means that it’s a lot harder for authorities to disappear people. If one person knows about it, they can get it to everyone, and it doesn’t even require convincing someone at the news station that it’s a story worth airing. It’s just aired, then and there by anyone who cares.
Yes, it’s concerning how much a thief or other ill-intentioned individual could find out about just with access to your Google password, but by the exact same token, we have instant access to our accounts, can find out much more quickly when things have happened, and cut things off, often remotely. And even in these small cases, the ability to get advice and help from a community of the whole world means it’s much easier to take action when it happens, and find out how to keep it from happening before it does.
There’s still enough skeptic in me that I do sometimes suddenly get freaked out by how much of me is out in the cloud. But a deep breath of the wider picture usually brings me back to wanting as much of my life online—the easy-to-use, information-filled, convenient as all hell online world—as I can get.
The debate is open in the comments…if you aren’t nervous about comments.