A Pessimist’s Take on Privacy

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of HTML, proposes a solution for the privacy concerns that many of us have about how his invention is being used:

Quoting: “With Solid, you will have far more personal agency over data – you decide which apps can access it.”  Maybe, but do you decide what they can do with it¹?

When I registered my first Mac, I said “No” to Apple’s question whether they could share my address with others.  Yet I immediately began getting catalogs every month from four different Apple-related stores, none of which even bothered to remove the “NO JUNK MAIL” that I had included as part of the address.

For years, I ignored Facebook’s constant nagging for me to give them my cell phone number.   They finally stopped asking—and bought WhatsApp to get my number and thousands of others.

Tim’s blog post also said, “Imagine if all your current apps talked to each other, collaborating and conceiving ways to enrich and streamline your personal life and business objectives?”

Is it realistic to believe an app developer is more interested in your business objectives than their own?  Or that this “talking to each other” won’t include sharing your data?  An estimated 75% of web pages have Google tracking code on them.

One drawback for Solid is that the majority of people just don’t know or don’t care about their loss of privacy.  Or they value the incentives offered them in return for their data.

Many of the ones that do care won’t embrace Solid until there are sufficient apps to make it useful for them.  But few apps will be created until there are sufficient users to make it worth the effort to create them.  Finally, if ever enough users (i.e., a big enough market) exist, apps will begin to be created by Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, NSA, and criminals.

¹If they can read my address, they can do anything else with it.