“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”―
Life is a series of buying and selling. Some things you inherit from birth, like abilities, time, material possessions, or rights. Other things you acquire by blood, sweat, and tears. Along the way, you are in a constant state of investing and bartering your inheritance and earnings to maximize your returns and improve your lot. In a conversation on self-ownership, one piece that is often neglected in the buying and selling is privacy. It comes freely yet brings in top dollar. We’re often guilty of short-selling privacy. We rationalize with ourselves that we have nothing to hide and willfully trade it for short-term gain. Such is the case in the Faustian Bargain.
The Faustian Bargain refers to Dr. Faustus of German folklore and deals in trading something of supreme moral value, such as your soul, for something of material value. For those who don’t believe in the human soul, the trade is of little consequence; 100% gain, a trick played on the spiritual. Still, for those who one day find it and realize they gave it away, it is irrevocably gone.
The Faustian Bargain is a lesson in valuation during the buying and selling. If one is to own themselves, privacy is a critical piece of how we operate in society. Who we freely associate with and allow into our inner-most being is a place for the most trusted among us. The truth is that in a world of 7-8 billion people, you are a blip on the radar, a single star in a sky of billions. Most of us are inconsequential, and the details of our lives are of little importance to those outside our sphere of influence. There is value in your story mattering most to and being shared with those within your nuclear sphere.
Consider the role of Big Tech in modern society: from the outset, they had a goal of hyper-focusing advertising so that they could enrich themselves, with the worthy goal of improving the bottom line of their advertisers and the lives of the target markets. This was the dichotomy that first drew me to advertising. My clients could make more money, customers could easily find the best deals on what products and services they were seeking, and there was a symbiotic relationship where all parties agreed to the terms of the deal. Somewhere along the way, the terms of the agreement were breached.
After building a profile on their target demo, the profile information then became weaponized against the demo. It was used by partisan actors to stifle speech and ostracize people from the public square, and this was never a term of the original arrangement. Thus, is the Faustian Bargain. Those you made a deal with had nefarious intentions from the start. Thus, the problem lies not with the terms of the arrangement but with whom you made the arrangement. That is the moral of this story: Your privacy comes freely but sells at a great cost. So in the buying and selling, guard your privacy. I will update you with some resources to help you guard your privacy in a subsequent post.
“Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy.” – Ayn Rand
Photo Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/IhcSHrZXFs4
** Update ** – I have created a follow-up post with some suggestions and links to help you guard your privacy at The Faustian Bargain Part II.