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The End of Trust

McSweeny’s brings together diverse perspectives on online privacy, digital identity and surveillance

With essays from Edward Snowdon, Jenna Wortham and other influential voices in the tech and identity fields, this collection from McSweeny’s explores the changing nature of privacy in an era of increased online surveillance.

With 19 separate contributions, including imagery, opinion and Q&As, this collection touches on many different aspects of the privacy debate. An introductory note from the editors asserts that privacy is a democratic right; a right that is currently under threat.

As the introduction states, this collection is not really concerned about the end of trust - it’s about the end of privacy. But importantly, it touches on the"digital identity" discussion in that the particularities of our digital identity ecosystem are converging to threaten privacy - bringing the privacy conversation helpfully into the digital identity ecosystem.

The editors go on to challenge those who are unconcerned about privacy because they personally have “nothing to hide.” They point out the broader social impact of the privacy debate:

“the journalists and activists we depend upon have much at stake – and so, therefore, do we. We’re all part of something beyond ourselves when it comes to resisting surveillance, and the folks who are already most vulnerable disproportionally bear the consequences of our collective slide into the privacy vacuum.”

A foreword from the Electronic Frontier Foundation concurs:

“for the last decade we’ve seen technology tend towards the unfair, the disempowering, the dystopian. We’ve seen governments and companies take negative advantage of their positions in building and running the networks, architectures, and tools that the rest of us rely on.”

Throughout the collection that follows, the breadth of perspectives affords insights into how experiences of digital identity and online privacy differ between various groups. The collection includes an essay from Sara Wachter-Boettcher on her experience of online harassment after a talk she gave at Google was uploaded to YouTube, as well as "The Postcards We Send Tips on Staying Vigilant in the Information Age," by Soraya Okuda, exploring the use of encrypted messaging.

Privacy, and how the digital age has altered our experience of privacy, is a continuous thread runs throughout these essays. Taken together, the content in this collection unpicks the myriad risks of encroaching online surveillance, both to the individual and to society as a whole. Privacy issues do not affect everyone in the same way, and there is no doubt that vulnerable groups are affected more acutely than others; to ignore the threat of digital surveillance is its own kind of privilege.

We need to rally together – not just because it’s creepy that Taco Bell ads know what we’re thinking before we do – but because privacy is a team sport, and every game counts. Every single one. We lose this or we win this together

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