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The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Matthew Guariglia on Privacy as a Human Right

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Matthew Guariglia on Privacy as a Human Right

Nov 15, 2021

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"Privacy is not a philosophical issue," said Matthew Guariglia. "Surveillance isn't just something that white guys can sit in armchairs and wax poetic about. It can cause real harm to people's lives."

Matthew is a Policy Analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that defends digital privacy, free speech, and innovation. He spoke to Orchid's Derek Silva on this week's episode of the Priv8 Podcast about shifting cultural attitudes toward privacy as a human right.

"Issues around privacy and surveillance have severe implications for a lot of Americans—particularly for marginalized groups, including undocumented people, unhoused people, people of color, and LGBTQ people.

"Not only do these groups have to deal with higher concentrations of surveillance being directed at them—they're also the ones most affected when this technology goes wrong. For example, when facial recognition technology falsely identifies someone, the most vulnerable people in society are often caught in the crosshairs."

Matthew told Derek that while marginalized groups may be most exposed to the effects of surveillance, everyone is at risk. "Many historical examples show how information hoarded by the government has been used in terrible ways," he said. "One of the best examples is what happened when information collected by police in Germany in the 1910s and 1920s was inherited by the Nazi regime in the 1930s."

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"People sometimes wonder, 'what's the worst that could happen just because the government has collected information on you?' The problem isn't necessarily what's happening right now—it's that we can't predict what will happen in the future. We don't know who's eventually going to inherit the information."

Matthew said that people are starting to realize how important the right to privacy really is. "More and more people are joining the fight," he said. "We're finally starting to see a real backlash against 'privacy nihilism'—the attitude that the loss of privacy is inevitable. People are fed up with that.

"There's also been so much great investigative reporting on unethical collaboration between technology companies and law enforcement bodies—for example, arrests caused by false facial recognition circumstances.

"I think the momentum is growing, and more people are getting involved."

You can listen to Derek's entire conversation with Matthew here. And don't forget to subscribe to Priv8 on your favorite streaming service.

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