John McAfee: You Should Care That Your Privacy Is Disappearing
Former fugitive and computer antivirus software tycoon, John McAfee says we are allowing technology to invade our lives in ways that alarmingly erode our privacy and expectation of such.
In a surprise appearance at the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas yesterday, McAfee said “certain people within Google… would like us to believe that if we have nothing to hide, we should not mind if everybody knows everything that we do.”
He warned that such “intrusions” threatened our freedom, and would reduce human behavior to the “least common denominator, those behaviors which no one would find offensive.”
McAfee blames this erosion of privacy on laziness and our desire for comfort and safety.
"We want ease of living, We want comfort in our life," McAfee said. "We’d rather be safe secure and comfortable than actually live and get out there and suffer and see what life is all about."
McAfee has often been portrayed in the media as a paranoid and eccentric personality. In a well-publicized incident in 2012, McAfee fled his home in Belize after police attempted to question him in connection with the murder of his neighbor, another American expatriate. McAfee says he has always had an aversion to law enforcement and was afraid the police would kill him.
His speech on privacy comes at an appropriate time. In May, the European Union ruled that Google must delete "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" links in its search results when requested by an EU resident. It has since received more than 91,000 requests.
At the same time, Facebook has taken heat for conducting an experiment that sought to manipulate the emotions of its users without their knowledge. And recently, dating site OkCupid revealed that it, too, experiments on its users. In fact, its founder said that anyone who uses the Internet is the "subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site."
Here is McAfee's full speech:
“What I want to talk about is something very dear to my heart. Privacy and the eroded nature of privacy in our lives today. Google, or at least certain people within Google -- I will not mention names, because I am not a rude gentleman -- would like us to believe that if we have nothing to hide, we should not mind if everybody knows everything that we do.
I have to take serious issue with that. If everybody knew everything about everybody else what would human behavior become? We would be limited to the least common denominator of human behavior, those behaviors which no one would find offensive.
You need to think this through. I hear people saying over and over, 'I don’t care, I’ve got nothing to hide.’ It’s not a matter of hiding anything. Here’s the issue. Unless you’re willing to stand up, to take a stand, to do something, we’re all lost.
We have done this because we’re lazy. We want ease of living. We want comfort in our life. We’d rather be safe secure and comfortable than actually live and get out there and suffer and see what life is all about. I’m as guilty as you are. We cannot have intrusions into our lives and still have freedom. And freedom is all I have. And it’s all you have, if you think about it.”
Benjamin Kabin is a Brooklyn-based technology journalist who specializes in security, startups, venture capital and social media.