Is privacy moving from a de jure right to a de facto privilege? And what are the human rights implications of this?
I see an emerging trend where privacy is a luxury. We have two dominant online ecosystems. On one side you have Google/Android which provides outstanding ‘free’ services but makes a considerable amount of money from selling its users’ data. On the other side you have Apple, which has moved towards stronger privacy protections and stated clearly that it makes money from selling hardware and software, not from selling customer data. However, Apple is a premium product compared to the mass of low or no cost Google/Android services and devices.
This creates a dynamic where privacy becomes a luxury. In the modern economy, online services are essential for participation. So people are presented with a choice – give up your privacy in exchange for services, or pay up for the privilege of additional privacy protections.
This could have significant impacts on global human rights, because it creates a dichotomy where high income individuals can pay for increased privacy protections, but the global poor are forced to give up their data, and their privacy, for the vital online services which are essential for participation in the modern economy. Their only other option is to not participate in the global economy.
Can you really have freedom without privacy? I would argue that privacy is an essential and inseperable element of freedom.
Privacy as a privilege creates a sort of nouveau feudalism, where the world’s poor must surrender freedoms to corporations in order to attain services that enable them to prosper.
This seems to call for government or private sector initiatives to provide services to power disadvantaged groups which do not require them to surrender their privacy. Without such a choice, the coercive effects of privacy as a privilege will create new, troubling inequities between the global haves and global have nots.