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A Future with no Privacy

The discourse from the primary voices on privacy concerns all share the common consensus: 

  1. Privacy is an achievable reality 
  2. We’re losing grip rapidly 
  3. This can be rectified 

Well, 1 out of 3 isn’t bad. 

The reality is that privacy is going to soon be a remnant of the past – and it’s going to be for good. This might be a frightening proposition for some. To understand the how and why behind this phenomenon, let’s sift through a few ideas. 

Within information security, there’s a formula leveraged for risk that appears as follows: 

Risk = probability X impact 

It’s multiplication, so as something either gets more probable to happen or hurts more when it happens, the risk escalates. 

With regards to privacy, we have a bad scenario literally on both aspects of this equation. For probability, we’re swiftly shifting towards the Internet-of-Things, where billions upon trillions of networked systems will be on the internet. And the current flowing through these systems will not be measured in amps and volts, but in terms of data. 

Our data, as it happens. 

This is an issue that’s worsening, and not taking a turn for the better. The drastic downward trend in the prices of storage, the widespread proliferation of social media, and the advent of data science driven by big data are all indicating to a one-directional flow of data moving away from us and into the international web. 

It’s not an organization that possesses your data, or 100 organizations. It’s thousands upon millions, and that number is appreciating at an alarming rate. Due to big data and machine learning, we’re only beginning to observe the capability that this data possesses. And as the industry has had a taste, they’re totally obsessed. 

The way it functions is that there are several large and really well-funded entities who do nothing but gather, manage, use, and then put a price on your data’s head-repeatedly. From organization to organization, industry to industry, sliced and sorted in numerous differing ways dependent on how they intend to leverage it. 

It’s not urine in a pool – they’re teardrops in an ocean. 

Our tears. 

To put it in a different way, we cannot stop our information from sneaking out. It’s inevitable. Freely floating data is a better option for shopping, it’s a better choice for personalization of your experiences, and it’s a better option for marketing reasons. As we stated, it’s inevitable. 

So on a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 being a 100% probability that you’re data will experience a leak or be stolen and available to some considerable subset of individuals who want it, in the next decade, we’d put that at around an 8 out of 10. And over the next two decades, it’s likely more like a 9 or 10. 

So that’s probability. 

With regards to impact, stuff doesn’t appear rosy either. It’s presently very damaging for somebody to have a specific combo of your data. Most critically, they can merely impersonate you in several ways, which consists of developing financial accounts in your name, buying things, not making bill payments, and eventually harming your credit history and even your reputation. 

It can be, and has been, a serious life disrupting issue for millions. 

It’s an unfortunate reality that the data that carries with it the utmost sensitivity is also the most difficult to alter. How are you going to alter your date of birth. Modifying your social security number isn’t simple. Maiden names are another ballgame altogether. 

The point to be observed is that it takes mere seconds to rob this information and share it with a planet, and the data itself is intended to exist unaltered for a complete lifetime. That’s a wicked asymmetry. 

Let’s play with some numbers now, so let’s call the present impact from identity theft a 9. 

So that leaves us with: 

Risk = 8 x 8 = 64 

Let’s state that the average person is willing to withstand a 50/100 risk score as it is in relation to their privacy, and we’re presently sat at 64. Again, these are swift numbers in a simple model, but it serves the purpose. 

Now if our data does as a matter of fact become more likely over the course of the subsequent decade to be leaked, shared, massaged, transmitted, and profited from by thousands of companies, then let’s state that probability (of data leakage) goes to 9. Then we get to: 

Risk = 9 x 8 = 72 

Even with a simplistic model it’s simple to observe that that amount of risk is just not condonable. 

So, here’s where things turn a bit odd. 

The best thing we can do to tackle this issue long-term is to assume probability is at 10 and work on tackling the impact. 

If you wish to make privacy a lesser concern, we merely have to identify a way to be less concerned about it. That’s a word and numbers game we’re playing there. 

Observe what occurs when we bring down the impact number: 

Risk = 9 x 4 = 36 

Thus if we could slash the impact by 50% we could get our cumulative risk down to 36%, which is really within tolerance level. 

Fine, you state, reduce the number, you say. How do we perform that? 

We require to – and will shift away from a world in which merely possessing data equates to authorization. 

It’s actually a pretty silly system. 

It’s a fact that a few authentication procedures are more robust than others, but we do not have billions in fraud and identity theft each year as the system is functional. 

The solution is to shift towards a much more robust and multi-faceted system for validating activities and transactions. So rather than providing your mystical unicorn numbers to authenticate a key purchase or life change, you’ll be authenticated in three, five, or a dozen differing ways – including by 3rd parties, individuals within your network, and even random strangers. 

Some of this will need technology we don’t possess yet, and it will take time to develop and implement, but it’s inevitable accurately as it’s about to become needed. 

The simple fact is that if we wish to minimize the risk of privacy worries, we have to shift the right side of the equation, not the left. We have to make the data less useful to malicious actors, and less of a concern to us that it’s out there. 

This will imply losing something we presently concern ourselves with a massive deal about, and that is bound to be a bumpy ride for sure. At some juncture, however, we’ll realize that it was what could be performed with the data that we are concerned about, not the data by itself. 

Meanwhile, we’ll be playing on both sides – safeguarding the privacy we presently have while prepping us for a future without any. 


  1. This model doesn’t tackle all variants of privacy concerns. There are several things individuals will still wish to keep private even after this transition takes place, even though they will be far lesser. 
  2. One place privacy will retain its criticality is in nations where one’s beliefs (or even their very identities) can cause them harm, like dissidents, atheists, homosexuals, etc. in developing nations. 
  3. The primary concentration here is on data like data of birth, national ID numbers, residence, location data, product and experience preferences, etc. These are the variants of things that i) will furnish advantages to the customer to be quasi-public in several cases, and 2) we can restrict the impact of malicious actors being aware. 
  4. As with several such modifications, this transition will organically happen as an outcome of generational change. A majority born during the 1950s aren’t going to embrace this in any kind of numbers. This will be most accepted by those who grow up where it’s normal. 
  5. Image from Pixabay – an authentic and free online source of images. 



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