Privacy - A double edged sword

This article briefly describes topics of suicide. That part is labelled and is non-essential to the article, so feel free to skip it if you aren’t comfortable.

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Now I’m a supporter for online privacy. I think it’s pretty reasonable to not have your identity lying around on the internet, much like how you don’t want everyone to know who you are when you’re trying to take a dump.

And when you look at the kinds of data being shared, it’s insane what companies want to know. Recently Google made a way to control what kind of data you send to advertisers. It covers everything from your gender and age, to home ownership and employer size.

A screenshot showing an example of Google's personalized ad settings

And by the way, I never shared with Google that I was employed by a large company - all my business emails aren’t hosted on GMail, and I haven’t used Google’s search engine in years. (No, I didn’t change it in this screenshot.) I don’t mean to sound conspiratorial or anything, but there’s definitely a lot of other data not shown here.

Of course, there’s a very obvious reason why so much is being collected. Yes, there’s analytics and whatnot to advertise to the right audience, but it also tracks potential illegal activity. I’m not talking about torrents or piracy.

The following section talks about suicide.

Click to read it. If not, just know it’s about an illegal website.There’s a website that’s abbreviated as “SS”, that actively encourages users to take their own life. I won’t delve into it too much since I myself am not comfortable talking about it, plus it isn’t too relevant to this article, but Tantacrul made an excellent video talking about it. It’s how I was made aware of this.

TL;DW: It’s a web forum about suicide. It actively encourages users, some of which are minors, to commit suicide. They also give “suicide methods”, some of which are gruesome.

Now, why do I bring up such a website? Well, it’s not necessarily illegal, it broadly falls under Section 230, which prevents site owners from being responsible for individual user’s actions.

Generally, it’s a good law. It’s how sites like YouTube don’t get shut down after someone uploads something illegal. But it’s how these sites continue to operate - the owners can say they don’t partake in them, and thus, the site lives on, even though there’s clearly something ethically / legally wrong with it.

So, why don’t we talk to the owner ourselves?

This is where CloudFlare comes into the scene. They provide the service to the site, including the domain and DDOS protection. CF hides the hosting server through a proxy (if they even have one), and because of that, it is impossible to get into contact with the original owner without going through them. And unfortunately, CF very rarely enforces their ToS, only taking action when absolutely necessarily.

This is the ultimate flaw of privacy. It’s within its design, its very nature, to allow such actions. There is no such thing as “true privacy” without it. So I ask you this, reader: Where do we draw the line? Hell, how do we draw it?

Do we let these actions slip under the radar, in the name of individual freedom and privacy? Or do we let big brother watch over our heads, in the name of security and safety?

I think only time will tell the real answer.

Until next time.

~ ggtyler