Privacy, public health and the moral hazard of surveillance

My new Guardian column, "Privacy, public health and the moral hazard of surveillance," discusses the way that the governments' reliance on social networks for intelligence purposes means that they can't intervene to help their populations get better at trading their privacy for services.

That's a crisis. If online oversharing is a public health problem, then the state's decision to harness it for its own purposes means that huge, powerful forces within government will come to depend on oversharing. It will be vital to their jobs – their pay-packets will literally depend on your inability to gauge the appropriateness of your online disclosure.

They will be on the same side as the companies that profit from oversharing, because they will, effectively, be just another firm that benefits from oversharing.

It's as though Scotland Yard decreed that obesity was critical to its ability to catch slow-moving, easily winded suspects. It's as though the NHS announced it would cope with the expense of an aging population by encouraging chain-smoking. The dangers of oversharing are hard enough to manage when it's just the private sector that benefits from them.

Privacy, public health and the moral hazard of surveillance

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